California Sports Betting to Remain Illegal (For Now)

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07/06/2020
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Not just yet and not this time. The State of California and its residents will need to wait before being permitted to place a legal wager in the Golden State on the Dodgers, 49ers, Sharks or Lakers. As reported previously, there was hope earlier this month that the State’s lawmakers would be able to come to an agreement on legalizing sports wagering and setting up California as the U.S. sports wagering market leader ahead of New Jersey. Alas, it’s not to be, but it doesn’t the topic of legal sports betting is dead and buried in California. Far from it.

Last week, State Senator Bill Dodd announced that he was withdrawing Bill SCA-6 from consideration which could have potentially legalized online and land-based retail sports betting across the state of California. It had been scheduled for a vote in the Appropriations Committee just a day later. Dodds is thought to have pulled the bill after strong opposition from the Tribal Casino community – his bill proposed California legalize sports gambling for both land-based and online sportsbooks through Native American casinos.

Senator Dodd’s last-minute switch means that it could now be up to the Tribal Casinos to put forward their own sports betting bill and get it on the November 2022 ballot. However, the Tribal Casino lobby is yet to gather enough signatures before potentially being able to move on creating California as the biggest sports betting market in the U.S. once it is live and mature.

Senator Dodds Wants to Get It Right for California

Senator Dodd’s bill would have put the question of legalizing and regulating sports wagering to the voters on the November 2020 General Election ballot, but rather than rush it, he wants to get it right, rather than put together unworkable laws for the gaming industry.

It’s an unfortunate outcome for California’s potential sports bettors and the state budget. Sports wagering legalization was expected to generate up to $700 million a year in tax revenue to help minimize cuts threatened by expected budget deficits. Senator Dodds sought to confirm to Californians that the sports betting legalization topic is not dead in the water;

Given the deadlines for getting a measure on the November ballot and the impact of Covid-19 on the public’s ability to weigh in, we were not able to get the bill across the finish line this year,” Senator Dodd said. “It remains important that we lift this widespread practice out of the shadows to make it safer and to generate money for the people of California. I will continue to be engaged in the issue as we work toward 2022” he continued.

Someone Forgot to Consult the Tribes

Given Dodd’s vision of legal California sports betting could be was at odds with what the state’s Tribal Casinos envision, it is hardly surprising that the two sides of the debate haven’t had any meaningful dialogue on the topic since the Senator lodged his legislation in early June.

Last week, tribal leaders explained that they had not been contacted by the legislators, and that they would continue their fight to get sports betting legalized in a way that suits all the stakeholders. It’s easy to forget sometimes that California’s tribes operate about 70 casinos and basically control gaming in the state, with the exceptions of horse racing and some casino table games at the State’s card rooms.

“They did not consult with tribes or ask leaders what we thought,” Marc Macarro, chief of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, a strong Tribal Casino community explained.
When the state opens up a little more following the global pandemic lock down, it should give the Tribal Casinos an opportunity to collect the required signatures and move sports betting onto the November 2022 ballot, and allow for all Californians to decide.

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