Legal sports betting in California appeared to be a dead issue a few months ago, but the coronavirus pandemic might have given it some new life. The state now faces an extreme budget deficit, and some lawmakers are hoping to use sports betting to help bail the state out.
One of the biggest reasons that lawmakers in California never really gave much thought to sports betting was because the state had a surplus in the annual budget. The coronavirus pandemic has crippled the economy in the state, and California now faces a deficit of over $50 billion.
Assemblyman Adam Gray proposed legalizing sports betting in the state as a way to close the budget deficit and to keep from massive cuts taking place. California Governor Gavin Newsom’s budget proposal included more than $14 billion in cuts, including from some important sectors.
Gray not only brought up the topic of sports betting but also suggested that the state should boost taxes on e-cigarettes as well as taxing lottery winnings.
Other assemblymen spoke on Tuesday at a committee of the whole meeting, and sports betting was referenced several times. The assembly was given a chance to speak directly to Governor Newsom, and they disagreed with his plans of cutting jobs and funding in his current budget proposal.
While Gray does have a point in suggesting that sports betting could help generate more revenue for the state, he went a little extreme in his projections. Gray estimated that California could receive over $2 billion annually from the new industry, which would be a record.
Even though Gray and other members of the assembly are getting sports betting back on the table, nothing seems imminent at this point. The legislature needs to approve a new budget by June 15, which doesn’t give a lot of time for any other discussions.
Long Road Ahead
If lawmakers and Governor Newsom agree that sports betting could help solve the budget issue, there is still a long process that must take place. A change would need to be made to the California State Constitution, and that would require a two-thirds vote by lawmakers.
Gray introduced ACA 18 earlier this year in an effort to get the topic of sports betting on the ballots in November. Senator Bill Dodd joined in the effort with Gray, but the initiative eventually died out, but tribal nations branched off and started their own plan.
Early this year, tribal nations in California began collecting signatures in hopes of getting a sports betting initiative on the ballot in November. It was expected that the ballot initiative would receive enough signatures, but the coronavirus stopped the collection process, leaving the organization a few thousand names short.
The group that was collecting the signatures was hoping that Governor Newsom would give them an extension or change the number of signatures required, but that will not be happening. The group still has until June 25 to collect the number of signatures that are needed, and there is still some small hope that it can happen.