With a Wednesday deadline looming for a final verified count, proponents to get a sports betting initiative before California voters appear to have enough signatures – if election officials can finish the count in time.
According to information from the California Secretary of State’s office, 771,992 signatures have been verified out of the slightly more than 1 million that have been checked. There remain 400,690 signatures left to verify. Officials need to verify 225,147 of those by Wednesday in order to meet the threshold of 997,139 valid signatures.
On Friday, Los Angeles County – the state’s largest – reported its results. Of the 394,699 raw signatures, election officials deemed 298,504, or 75.6 percent, signatures as valid.
Of the state’s 58 counties, only seven have yet to turn in results. That includes San Diego, where officials need to verify 160,234 signatures; Riverside, with 85,956 signatures; and Sacramento, which has 74,605 signatures to verify. If those three counties can verify 70.8 percent of their signatures, that will be enough to get the measure on the ballot.
The current statewide average for the petitions is 75.2 percent.
Other counties still outstanding are Kern (35,884 raw signatures), San Joaquin (24,895), Santa Cruz (7,810), and Sonoma (11,306).
Initially, the signature verification process faced a deadline of April 22. However, on April 16, the registrars for Los Angeles and San Diego counties told a state judge their offices needed more time due to other obligations. Those obligations included another referendum petition, the gubernatorial recall petition, and handling other election duties. Other counties also sought similar relief from the California Secretary of State.
That led to Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Laurie M. Earl giving the counties an extension to May 26 to verify the sports betting signatures.
It’s not the first time a judge has signed off on giving more time for the initiative. Last year, a judge gave petitioners more time to obtain signatures because proponents said the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for them.
The judge pushed the deadline to Dec. 14, which allowed proponents to get more than 1.4 million signatures.
The Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering, which consists of several tribal nations, led the petition drive. That organization received funding from the state’s tribal gaming operators that stand to benefit from offering sports betting through its casinos.
According to information from the Secretary of State’s office, the group received “major funding” from the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians, Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.
The petition would allow tribal casinos in the state to offer sports betting. It also would allow them to offer roulette and dice games as well. Those three games are subject to the tribes reaching an agreement with the governor on compacts. The state legislature would also need to approve the compacts.
It also allows on-site sports betting at Golden Gate Fields, Santa Anita, Del Mar, and Los Alamitos race tracks. The state would collect a 10 percent tax on the profits from those sportsbooks.
Racing officials are hopeful sportsbooks would help add money for races, which they hope would attract more horses to the circuit.
While it is still early in the process, TOC is hopeful the net result from the legalization of sports wagering in California and new sports gaming revenue sharing agreements to be negotiated with the racetracks will add as much as $10 million a year in new purse revenues statewide by 2023,” said Gary Fenton, chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, in a March message to members.
Card room and professional sports teams would not be allowed to participate in sports betting under the referendum. There is a separate movement to legalize sports betting for those groups.
Initially, the tribal referendum was likely headed for a 2022 vote. But it may move to this year thanks to the gubernatorial recall election.