Seven Sportsbooks Back Third Potential Sports Betting Act on ’22 California Ballot

Posted on: September 23, 2021, 11:30h. 

Last updated on: September 24, 2021, 08:39h.

Backers of what would potentially be a third sports betting measure on the 2022 California general election ballot are citing evidence of potential success. They say a survey taken earlier this summer indicates Golden State voters back their plan to legalize the gaming product statewide.

California sports betting
The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco at night. Seven sports betting operators are seeking to get an initiative on the 2022 general election ballot that would legalize sports betting across the state and use revenues to support programs for homelessness and mental health. (Image: Carol M. Highsmith/Library of Congress)

Earlier this week, Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support released poll findings from David Binder Research. The poll indicated 62 percent of likely voters would support the creation of a fund to offer permanent shelters for the unhoused and increase services for those struggling with mental health and addiction issues. Only 25 percent currently oppose.

The funding to solve those issues would come from legalizing sports betting statewide, with both commercial and tribal operators able to participate. It’s backed by seven current or aspiring operators that are willing to each put up $100 million for licenses to operate online in the largest US state.

But before any of that can happen, the group must first get nearly 1 million verified signatures on petition forms and have those documents turned in to county officials – likely by late April – in order to get the measure on the ballot.

Currently, the state attorney general’s office is preparing the petition for the Secretary of State. According to Secretary of State Dr. Shirley N. Weber, her office expects to get the paperwork around Nov. 4. Typically, groups circulating petitions for such measures have up to 180 days to collect signatures. But that time frame can get compressed because of deadlines tied to the November election.

Regardless, proponents are confident they can get the 997,139 validated signatures to make the ballot.

We expect the initiative to win broad support across all geographic and party lines,” organization spokesperson Nathan Click told this week.

As Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office prepares the initiative, it is also going through a customary 30-day review. That’s where the public can review the entire measure and submit comments. Comments will be accepted through next Thursday.

Sportsbooks Claim Measures Complement

The sports betting operators behind the measure are: Bally’s Interactive, BetMGM, DraftKings, Fanatics Betting & Gaming, FanDuel, Penn National/Barstool Sportsbook, and WynnBET. They formally announced their initiative in late August, having committed $100 million for the campaign.

Under their plan, online sports betting licenses would be available for $100 million. Tribal gaming entities could also receive online licenses for $10 million, but they would not be able to partner with a commercial skin. In other words, the mobile app would have to be under either the tribe’s name or its casino.

In that aspect, the group says its initiative complements the ballot measure California tribal leaders submitted earlier this year. Several tribal entities joined forces to get a retail-only initiative on the ballot, and California elections officials verified their petition in late May.

In addition to brick-and-mortar sportsbooks at the tribal casinos, the measure also allows the state’s thoroughbred racetracks – Del Mar, Golden Gate Fields, Los Alamitos, and Santa Anita Park – to operate a retail sportsbook. Racing officials have said sports betting would be a way for them to boost purses and attract more horses and horsemen to their meets.

Cardrooms Counting on Cities’ Plan

One group that’s left out of the sportsbooks and the tribal measures are the state-licensed cardrooms. But they would be included in a measure led by a group called Cities for Responsible Sports Betting, which announced its petition filing with the attorney general’s office a couple of weeks before the sportsbook initiative.

Cities for Responsible Sports Betting would also allow tribal gaming operators, state-licensed gaming establishments, and professional sports leagues to offer sports betting. It also allows for online wagering.

Similar to the sportsbooks’ efforts, the cities’ plan calls for the tax revenues from sports betting to address homelessness and mental health issues. Proceeds could also go toward public education or COVID-19 relief.

The 30-day comment period for the cities’ measure has passed. The Secretary of State’s office expects it to be issued on or around Oct. 18. Once that petition drive stars, it will also require 997,139 valid signatures.