Bet on it: California’s sports gambling effort isn’t over

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The effort to legalize sports betting in California has met with a typical challenge for competing ballot measures, each beaten in a torrent of negative publicity that doomed both to spectacular failure in the most expensive ballot race in US history.

Whenever voters are faced with two conflicting measures, they tend to reject both, said Professor David McCuan, chair of the political science department at Sonoma State University.

“Anytime we have dueling voting metrics and competitors have an arsenal of dollars…competitors will go nuclear. And in a nuclear war everyone loses,” McCuan said. “The most powerful money in California politics is on the ‘no’ side of ballot measures.”

The result was a sticking out at the polls for both.

With 5.3 million votes counted on Wednesday, more than 80% of voters rejected a gambling industry effort that would have allowed online and telephone betting on sports. A measure backed by Native American tribes that would have allowed gamblers to place sports bets at tribal casinos and four racetracks was opposed by 70% of voters.

But Tuesday’s election result is not a doomsday scenario for sports betting in California. With what could be a billion-dollar market in the nation’s most populous state, there’s just too much at stake for fans to give up.

More than 30 other states now allow sports betting, but Californians are limited to slots, poker and other games at Native American casinos, and wagering at racetracks, card rooms and the American lottery. State.

Proponents of the two measures would not discuss specifics, but said they were reassessing how to move forward to bring sports betting to the Golden State.

Jacob Mejia, vice president of public affairs at Pechanga, which owns one of the largest casinos, said it was too early to tell whether tribal gaming interests would try to work with the Legislative Assembly or go to again directly to voters.

“First of all, we all have to respect the will of the voters and the message they sent last night,” Mejia said.

The online betting campaign released a statement saying it remains committed to growing sports betting in California.

“This campaign underscored our determination to see California follow more than half the country in legalizing safe and responsible online sports betting,” the Yes on 27 campaign said. safe, responsible, regulated and taxed online sports betting, and we are determined to make it work here.”

Returning to the Legislature to find a solution would require powerful tribes to sit down with their smaller peers, off-track betting operations, as well as haters who operate card rooms and those who want to expand betting to devices. mobile, McCuan said.

“The tribes have so much money and so many resources that they believe they could take their toys and go home,” McCuan said. “It posed some problems in finding a legislative solution.”

The origin of what has become such a negative campaign with voters inundated with television ads at sporting events, on social media and in direct mail, began after the failure of several legislative efforts to allow sports betting to Sacramento.

The California tribes planned to launch an election campaign in 2020, but had to put that plan on hold when the pandemic prevented collecting the signatures needed to get it on the ballot.

Their measure – Proposition 26 – qualified for the ballot this year, but they quickly shifted priorities to defeat Proposition 27 – the competing measure proposed by online gambling proponents.

“The tribes saw this as the biggest threat to their self-sufficiency in a generation,” Mejia said. “These out-of-state operators tried to pass off Prop. 27 as a tribal solution for homelessness, when in fact it was neither.”

The attack ads said Proposition 27 would turn every cellphone, laptop and tablet into a gambling device. They said it could not be adequately monitored to prevent children from betting and raised fears of the creation of a generation of drug addicts.

Opponents of Proposition 26, led mostly by cardrooms who stood to lose any type of sports betting, said the measure would increase the power of wealthy tribes and give them a virtual monopoly on gambling in the state. . The measure would also have allowed casinos to offer roulette and craps.

Both measures promised to bring benefits to the state through tax revenue. Proponents of Proposition 27 have touted funds that would go to help the homeless, the mentally ill and poorer tribes excluded from the casino windfall. Proponents of Proposition 26 said a 10% tax would fund enforcement of gambling laws and support programs to help drug addicts.

Of the approximately $460 million raised for and against the two measures, around $170 million was intended to support the online sports gambling initiative backed by DraftKings, BetMGM, FanDuel – the latter of which is the official odds provider for the ‘Associated Press – as well as other national sports betting operators and some tribes.

A coalition of tribes behind the No of 27 committee raised $116 million for their defeat. Of the $128 million raised by the Yes on 26, No on 27 committee of tribal groups, Mejia said his spending was primarily to defeat the measure online and the group did not air a single TV commercial in support. his own initiative.

Two groups funded primarily by cardrooms have raised $44 million to attack Proposition 26.

Massive fundraising more than doubles previous record in 2020 that helped Uber, Lyft and other app-based ride-hailing and delivery services prevent drivers from becoming employees eligible for benefits and protection employment.

With an explosion of political advertising, voters often end up being put off, McCuan said.

“What California voters object to is the vulgarity of having campaign ads thrown at every turn,” he said. “It has this backlash effect.”


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