Sports betting legalization in the US has had a tremendous 2019 but there have been some failures, namely the inability to bring the three most populous states, California, Florida and Texas on board. California is perhaps the closest of the "Big 3" to tapping into their enormous market and potential revenue bonanza.
Two plans have come forward for California voters to consider ahead of a 2020 vote toward legalization. One is from State Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, and Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced who propose a bill that makes online betting legal while the other is from more than a dozen Native American tribes that hope to make legal sports betting a reality at racetracks and tribal casinos only.
Bill Dodd and Adam Gray will hold a joint Senate-Assembly informational hearing January 8 in the California legislature to present their plan. “Illegal sports betting is widespread, and it’s critical that we bring it out of the shadows to make it safer and generate funds for education,” Dodd said, according to the Sierra Sun Times. “I look forward to hearing from all stakeholders at this key hearing as we analyze and develop the best approach. The Legislature’s job is to stand up for the public interest and ensure California adopts the best possible model.”
In June, Dodd and Gray introduced legislation to amend the California Constitution to authorize and regulate sports wagering with an aim to bring online wagering to the state. Both have a stake in legalization talks as each chair Governmental Organization committees in charge of gaming regulations.
Lawmakers will be seeking support from two-thirds of both the Assembly and the Senate in order to place the bill on the 2020 ballot.
The other plan that California voters will consider is to bring legalized sports betting but to limit it, at least for now, to brick-and-mortar tribal facilities and the five racetracks that currently operate in the state. The tribes would, in effect, control sports betting in the state.
There has been some pushback to the tribal plan – critics contend that there is a hidden agenda that aims to put competition on the backburner and eventually drive competitors out of business. The plan also fails to address the biggest economic driver in successful bet-friendly states – mobile betting.
Slow pace of legalization
California fancies itself as one of the most progressive states in the union but is having a hard time moving quickly on legalized sports betting. In turn, they are missing out on an enormous revenue stream that could benefit state and local coffers and help infrastructure plans as well as social programs.
New Jersey, Nevada and Pennsylvania have already laid out what looks to be the best models for states like California to follow. New Jersey reported about $3.2 billion in wagers in its first year (80% coming via mobile betting) with Pennsylvania taking in more than $1 billion in wagers in the first year.
California, as one of the three most populated states in the US has a real chance to pass the impressive revenues of both states. First things first however – a sports betting plan will have to be agreed upon, political gridlock must be overcome and citizens need to have a say.
To say sports betting legalization is close is a stretch at best. With the topic being on the 2020 ballot, it seems that 2021 seems like a realistic date for legal sports betting to kick off.