California is Still Far Behind Other States in the Legalization of Sports Betting
It seems that California is taking a more patient approach with legalizing sports betting than other states who have already rolled out their sports betting legislation or are in the process of finalizing the framework. States like Delaware and New Jersey were the first two post-PASPA states to legalize sports betting within 3-4 weeks of the May 14th Supreme Court ruling. Other states like West Virginia, Mississippi and Pennsylvania are shooting to have their framework finalized and launched before the 2018 football season. And then there are states like Michigan, who are looking to get something set up by the end of the year.
However, unlike those mentioned states, California seems to be way behind on this issue. For the 5th largest economy in the world, one would’ve thought that a framework to roll out legalized sports betting within the state would’ve already been done or at least close to completion. Ideally, California should’ve been more proactive like Mississippi, who made amendments to their laws last year and legalized sports betting in the hopes that SCOTUS would overturn PASPA. Well, now Mississippi is sitting pretty and California is not even sure when they can roll out something for voters to approve or reject. Will it be 2018 or 2020?
Since last year, Assemblyman Adam Gray has been pushing for the state to pass his proposed bill and legalize sports betting. Unfortunately, his fellow lawmakers didn’t see the urgency. Gray made the following comments about the status of sports betting in California , according to the San Francisco Chronicle:
“Whether we like it or not, Californians are already betting on sports through illegal and often unscrupulous websites in foreign countries.”
With that said, Gray believes that his bill can help provide a safe, reliable framework for sports betting and bettors in the state. Gray’s bill would need to get 2/3rds majority votes in both of the state’s houses in order to be placed on this November’s ballot. Although it’s not impossible, the odds aren’t in Gray’s favor as other bills have stalled or fallen well short of being passed by state legislation.
Even if the two houses vote to support this bill, California will still have to deal with Tribal Casinos and that’s going to be tough waters to navigate.
A Sensitive Situation with Tribal Casinos
California has over 70 tribal casinos that bring in a combined $8 billion dollars in revenue each year. These casinos pay roughly $250 million in fees to California’s general fund. If sports betting became legal, that number could easily double. With regards to these tribal compacts, California is in a bind when it comes to passing any sports betting law. And, the state can thank the voters for that.
In 2000, voters approved that tribal casinos could have full casino operations. This has led to tribes believing that they have and/or obtaining exclusive rights within the state for casino activities, including sports betting. I’m sure this will become a point of contention moving forward.
The California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) has urged the state to move patiently on the topic of sports betting. Additionally, CNIGA publicly stated that they have a right to sit at the table for any discussions about sports betting. But, what really caught the attention of many analysts, was the following declaration that CNIGA made in an official press release:
“We also want to make very clear that California voters have, on numerous occasions, confirmed the exclusive right of California tribal governments to operate casino-style games. Legalization of sports betting should not become a back-door way to infringe upon that exclusivity.”
Unlike Mississippi, where the state and tribes both have casinos, only tribes have casinos in California. Therefore, they have a large say in the legalization of sports betting and could definitely seek legal recourse if the state doesn’t honor their position.
What’s Next for California and Sports Betting?
It’s clear, even though they’re moving at a snail’s pace, California lawmakers want to legalize sports betting within the state and earn those hundreds of millions of dollars from taxed betting revenue. However, the state will need to hash out the language of any bill, vote to pass said bill, and then put it on the ballot for voters to express their opinions. Somewhere along the way, California’s state legislature will have to sit down with CNIGA and other Native American casino representatives to figure out how all of the parties can benefit from legalized sports betting. In other words, California still has a lot of work to do.
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