Bad news California residents. Legal sports betting will not be happening in your state this year, and 2020 may be a longshot as well.
An initiative to authorize sports betting in California expired without enough signatures to qualify for the 2020 ballot.
The news gets worse. The initiative needed around 623,000 signatures in order to make the ballot (which is based on 5 percent of the most recent gubernatorial vote total). The total amount of signatures that the initiative gathered, zero.
“We never advanced to get a single signature,” said Russell Lowery, a consultant for the group (California for Sports Betting) that filed the petition last year.
The deadline to introduce a new sports betting bill this year has also passed in the state legislature.
The initiative was hoping to find a compromise between the state’s tribes and cardrooms. It would have allowed for the tribes to operate roulette and craps at their casinos, with both the tribes and cardrooms being allowed to offer sports betting.
The summary filed for the petition states:
Allows federally recognized Native American tribes to operate roulette and craps games on tribal lands, subject to compacts negotiated by the Governor and ratified by the legislature.
Allows licensed gambling establishments, such as card rooms, to conduct on-site sports wagering and to operate Nevada-style card games, and may result in authorization of sports wagering on tribal lands because of federal law.
Prohibits (the) governor from approving gaming on newly acquired off-reservation tribal lands and negotiating gaming compacts with non-federally recognized tribes.
In addition, the initiative would have amended the state constitution to add in the line that the legislature “may authorize banking and percentage games including and not limited to sports wagering.”
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the reason that the sports betting initiative failed was due to a lack of donors. Mainly due to the fact that outside gaming interests are focusing on states they believe has a better climate for gambling expansion.
The initiative also lacked the support of the state’s tribes. As a result, there was no donor large enough to overcome the money that the tribes would have spent to defeat it.
Tribal interests in California that controls most of the state’s casino gambling are reluctant to reopen agreements that they have with the state. The tribes do not want to share the gambling market in the state with other operations, such as racetracks, lottery retailers and cardrooms. Their thought is that the revenue from sports betting isn’t worth risking their $8 billion industry.
Another issue is that the state is not receiving as much money from Indian gaming as it has in the past. The Union-Tribune noted that since revenue-sharing agreements between the tribes and the state were thrown out by a federal court, California has seen a catastrophic drop in revenue from the tribes. Tribal gaming contributed $330 million to the California general fund in 2016. That number has now dropped to below $4 million.
Lowery has said that he doesn’t have plans at this time to file another initiative. However, there is still time for California to get sports betting on the 2020 ballot.
Initiatives in California can be circulated for 180 days and need to be certified at least 131 days before the election. That means they have until June 25, 2020.
California is one of 19 states that currently does not have a sports betting bill under construction or on the books this year.