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California Sports Betting Update


A legal sports betting measure proposed by two California lawmakers is likely to have an uphill battle as tribal interests already are expressing opposition to the bill.

State Senator Bill Dodd and Assemblyman Adam Gray say the bill if passed would let voters decide the fate of sports betting and the benefits it would offer.

California’s Native American tribes, who operate more than 60 casinos statewide, already have shown they are willing to take California to court to defend the rights afforded them in their compacts with the state, even though a judge ruled against them recently.

Three gaming tribes filed suit regarding cardrooms which they believe violates their exclusive rights to offer blackjack, baccarat and others. Cardrooms argued they are within the law citing they are not “house-banked” but “banked by players.” The judge agreed with the cardrooms.

The California Nations Indian Gaming Association issued a statement standing by their now defunct lawsuit and threw in a suggestion that lawmakers “proceed with caution” regarding moving forward with sports betting legislation.

“In short, CNIGA does not support any expansion of gaming in California, including sports betting, until the for-profit, commercial card rooms stop their illegal practices, including constitutionally prohibited banked games,” chairman Steve Stallings said in a prepared statement. “A legitimate discussion on sports betting could then proceed as long as tribal exclusivity is maintained.”

This new sports betting bill comes after a proposal from Californians for Sports Betting failed gain enough support to get the initiative on the 2020 ballot. They group also didn’t gather any of the signatures needed to get it before the voters.

Legal sports betting has been gaining momentum across the nation since the U.S. Supreme Court last year overturned law, making wagers on sports legal beyond the Nevada state line.

In May, for the first the time, New Jersey outpaced Nevada in sports betting revenues.

From Maine to Oregon, more than 15 states have approved or already implemented legal sports wagers with several more states with proposals moving through legislatures.

California’s proposed bill is short on details. It doesn’t offer any information regarding organization, where betting would occur, regulations or a tax rate.

“We will have the framework and details fairly well worked out before the voters see it,” Dodd told The Santa Rosa Press Democrat. “Otherwise there’s not a lot of love and trust between stakeholders. We’ll get everything dealt with before that.”

Bill ACA 16 would need a two-thirds majority of lawmakers to qualify for the 2020 ballot.

California is largest in the U.S. based on population with nearly 40 million residents – boasting a very strong fan base for teams in all professional sports.

Eilers & Krejcik Gaming estimates California could see an annual taxable revenue of more than $2.1 billion in a sports wagering market that includes mobile betting, according to Forbes.

The legislation will the focus of several  joint informational hearing in the state Senate.