California Online Sports-Betting Initiative Set To Qualify For Ballot

May 4, 2022
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The political action committee behind a second ballot initiative in California funded by major sports-betting operators has submitted 1.6m signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office for verification, well over the number required to get on November’s ballot.

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The political action committee behind a second ballot initiative in California funded by major sports-betting operators has submitted 1.6m signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office for verification, well over the number required to get on November’s ballot.

The Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act would permit mobile betting throughout the most populous state in the U.S. through partnerships between commercial sportsbook operators and California Indian tribes.

Proponents had a deadline Tuesday (May 3) to collect 997,139 signatures. Any ballot measure in California needs 8 percent of the total votes cast for the governor in the preceding general election to qualify.

“This means that voters will have the chance to ensure that California has a permanent funding source for homelessness and mental health, a permanent funding source that provides hundreds of millions of dollars each year in the state's budget,” said Nathan Click, a spokesman for the campaign.

The initiative is financially supported by FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM, among others, and represents the most significant opportunity yet for the sports-betting operators to get access to California, the crown jewel in the U.S. market.

If verified by state officials, the initiative will be the second sports-betting initiative to qualify for the November 8, 2022 ballot, joining one backed by a coalition of tribes that would permit land-based wagering at tribal casinos and racetracks, but no state-wide mobile bets.

A third initiative, supported by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, also proposes retail sports betting at tribal casinos, as well as mobile sports betting exclusively through Indian tribes. Supporters are still gathering signatures and have a July 11 deadline.

A fourth initiative to legalize mobile sports betting backed by cardrooms in California missed an April 18 deadline to submit signatures to state election officials.

The group behind the retail-only ballot initiative, the Coalition for Safe Responsible Gaming, released a statement on Tuesday continuing to voice strong opposition to the DraftKings and FanDuel-backed initiative.

“The Corporate Online Gambling Proposition would legalize online and mobile sports gambling — turning virtually every cell phone, laptop, tablet and gaming console into a gambling device, increasing the risks of underage and problem gambling,” said Cody Martinez, tribal chairman of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation in San Diego County.

“We will run a vigorous campaign against this measure and are confident the voters will see through the deceptive promises being made by these out-of-state gambling corporations,” Martinez said.

The commercial gaming companies behind the mobile sports-betting initiative have committed $100m to the campaign, while opposition groups, including the Rincon Band of Mission Indians and Wilton Rancheria, have pledged $100m to defeat the measure.

One concern many have voiced is that having two, or potentially more, sports-betting initiatives on the ballot will confuse voters and lead to each of the measures being rejected, an idea Click pushed back against on Tuesday.

“We're confident in our measure, we're confident in the benefits it provides the state,” he said. “Our polling and the response that we've gotten through our signature drive has shown that people are hungry for solutions to homelessness, and we're the only measure that would create hundreds of millions of dollars each year in funding for homelessness and mental health support.

“So we'll have the resources to be able to communicate and to tell voters exactly what's in our measure, and we're confident that they'll support it just as they have throughout this entire campaign.”

The group released a poll showing 59 percent of voters would support their initiative, while last week the tribal coalition released polling that said 38 percent of voters would definitely vote against the mobile betting plan and another 15 percent would either be “probably no” or “undecided, lean no.”

Another criticism that has been levied against the mobile betting proposal is the high barrier for entry it sets, including a $100m upfront license fee, which can then be credited against tax payments over five years, and a requirement that online operators be licensed in at least ten other states to be eligible for licensure in California.

“When it comes to sports betting in California, our goal is to create a safe and responsible marketplace, one with vetted platforms with a track record of good conduct in other states,” Click said. “We see that requirement in the measure of having licenses in other states as one of the safety features in our measure.

“Californians should know that the platforms that are available in California have a record of safe conduct in other states and that's what it hopes to put forward.”

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