California voters will get a chance to decide if they want to legalize sports betting in their state. However, it’ll be a while before they can go to the polls.
On Thursday, the Secretary of State’s Office announced that proponents of the measure secured enough signatures to get the question on the ballot for the November 2022 election. Elections officials in the state’s 58 counties verified 1,061,282 signatures out of the 1,427,373 supporters – namely tribal nations that operate casinos in the state – garnered in a petition drive last year.
Proponents needed 997,139, and Wednesday was the deadline for counties to verify petitions.
This is an important step toward giving Californians the opportunity to participate in sports wagering while also establishing safeguards and protections against underage gambling,” said Mark Macarro, chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, in a statement.
The plan would allow tribal casinos to offer sports betting, as well as roulette and dice games, provided tribal leaders can secure gaming compacts with the state. It also allows privately held race tracks in Alameda, Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties to host sportsbooks.
The state would levy a 10 percent tax on the profits from the race track sportsbooks.
Down to the Wire
Initially, the deadline for counties to verify signatures was April 22. However, the registrars in Los Angeles and San Diego counties sought an extension last month. In doing so, they said counties needed more time to validate the signatures because of a number of issues. Those included the work they were required to perform on the gubernatorial recall petitions.
As a result, a judge gave them until Wednesday to wrap up the sports betting work. Five counties – Kern, Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego, and Santa Cruz – submitted their reports on the last day.
San Diego County had to process 160,241 signatures, of which officials found 113,274 valid. That was the second-largest total behind Los Angeles County, where officials validated 298,504 signatures out of the 394,699 submitted.
The reason voters won’t decide until next year is because that’s when the next scheduled statewide general election will take place. Voters will go to the polls on Nov. 8, 2022.
A memo Thursday from Jordan Kaku, initiative and referendum coordinator for Secretary of State Dr. Shirley N. Weber, said Weber will certify the initiative on June 30, 2022, for next year’s general election. Proponents, though, will have a chance to withdraw up until that time.
California Sports Betting Vote Not a Slam Dunk
As the most populous state in the country with 39.5 million people, California would be by far the largest and most lucrative legal sports betting market in the US. The petition calls for the casinos to operate sports betting “on tribal lands,” which would preclude statewide mobile wagering. Even with California’s population advantage, that – as other states that have eschewed mobile betting have shown – would significantly impact the revenue tribal nations, race tracks, and the state would receive.
The measure isn’t a shoo-in, either. With the state’s commercially licensed cardrooms locked out from the measure, they will oppose the measure, as will anti-gambling organizations. The state’s professional sports teams may also oppose, as other jurisdictions have been willing to let teams open sportsbooks in or near arenas.