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Will California Voters Get to Choose Sports Betting?

Earlier this week, California lawmakers proposed a ballot measure to legalize sports betting. According to the bill, (ACA 16), California voters would be given a chance to change the state constitution as soon as November of 2020. The bill was introduced by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) and Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced).

While this is certainly good news for prospective bettors in California, there are still a number of obstacles in the way, including one major one. The Native American tribes that operate casinos in California are stubborn when it comes to gambling expansion. These tribes have a lot of influence in the California political world. If they want something to happen or not happen, odds are they will get their way.

Exclusive Rights

The chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association expressed his disdain for the idea of legalizing sports betting in the state. Unless of course, the tribes are given exclusivity for sports betting.

Chairman Steve Stallings said:

“In short, CNIGA does not support any expansion of gaming in California, including sports betting until the for-profit, commercial card rooms stop their illegal practices, including constitutionally prohibited banked games. A legitimate discussion on sports betting could then proceed as long as tribal exclusivity is maintained.”

According to Stallings, it appears the only way sports betting will make its way to California is if the tribes have the exclusive rights. Outside of that, don’t expect the tribes to budge on the issue.

Still Optimistic

Dodd understands that his bill has a long way to go before anyone should get their hopes up. However, he is optimistic at the opportunity he has to talk with the tribes and other gambling stakeholders in the state. “I look forward to working with stakeholders in a collaborative effort to help bring this out of the shadows,” said Dodd.

There are no major details in the bill just yet; it is merely a jumping off point at this time. The method of sports betting nor the tax percentages have not been determined as of yet. Public hearings on the bill will be held in the coming months by both the Senate and Assembly.

California has one of the most difficult paths to legalization of any state at the moment. If the tribes are unwilling to budge, which seems like the case, California will have virtually no chance of bringing legal sports betting to the state. The only way they have a chance of doing so is to allow the tribes the exclusivity to sports betting. That will almost certainly cause issues from the state’s other gambling facilities (racetracks, card rooms, etc.).

Even with a best-case scenario, legal sports betting is years away from coming to California. Tribal issues aside, California still needs a constitutional amendment in order to offer sports betting. That is what this bill is hoping to do: Give voters in California a chance to bring legal sports betting to the state. While it is a step in the right direction, California voters shouldn’t get their hopes up just yet. There is still a long way to go, and a lot can cause the issue to fade away once again.

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