As the countdown continues to the ballot initiative contest to legalize sports betting in California this November, backers of the two leading propositions are already maneuvering to win the hearts and minds of potential voters by gathering key endorsements.
The prop that would allow in-person wagering at all tribal facilities and the state’s four racetracks was proposed by four tribes: the Barona Band of Mission Indians, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation and the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians.
This measure originally was ticketed for the 2020 General Election, but it was pushed back two years by Covid.
The “California Solutions To Homelessness & Mental Health Act” is the legal name of the proposition backed by DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, WynnBET, Bally’s Interactive, Fanatics Betting & Gaming and Penn National Gaming. If approved by voters, it would allow online sports betting anywhere in the Golden State – including outside of Indian lands – and proposes to raise hundreds of millions of dollars each year for homelessness and mental health services.
The Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming, the group leading the Yes campaign (for what is referred to as the in-person tribal sports wagering measure) and the No campaign against the online wagering measure, had an active month in May.
One of the headliners to join the cause was the California Teachers Association (CTA), which on May 24 said its State Council of Education voted to formally oppose the Corporate Online Gambling Proposition – what the tribal in-person folks call the DraftKings/FanDuel initiative.
According to a statement issued by the CTA, the Corporate Online Gambling Proposition would “legalize online and mobile sports gambling throughout the state – turning virtually every cell phone, laptop and tablet into a gambling device.”
“Parents, educators and others warn this deceptive measure would expose kids to increased risks of addiction and problem gambling,” the Association said in its statement.
The CTA cited research from the Journal of Gambling Issues, which it said found the accelerated speed of play and easily accessible nature of online and mobile gambling are “especially attractive” to youth.
“Further, this measure would shortchange schools and public education, along with other state priorities,” the Association continued. “That’s because the measure explicitly circumvents Proposition 98’s guaranteed minimum funding to California public schools. Under theirmeasure,out-of-state gambling corporations wouldprofit billions off of online sports gambling, but not a single penny of tax revenues
would be dedicated to public schools or education.”
Earlier in May, the Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming released a list of what it described as statewide business leaders and small business advocates that were in “strong opposition” to the Corporate Online Gambling Proposition.
“Opponents contend the Corporate Online Gambling Proposition is a direct attack on California’s local, brick-and-mortar tribal casinos that would jeopardize California jobs and economic progress,” the Coalition declared. “At the same time, the measure would send the vast majority of sports wagering profits out of state without creating any jobs or making any real investments in California.”
Tracy Stanhoff, President of the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of California, added:“As Native American people, we are proud of the fact that tribal casinos have proven to be powerful economic engines in tribal and non-tribal communities alike. The Corporate Online Gambling Propositionis a direct threat to tribal casinos and the thousands of small businesses and workforce that depend on them.”
According to the American Gaming Association, California’s tribal casinos generate $20bn annually in economic impact for the state economy, support 125,000 jobs, and share more than $1.7bn in revenue with state and local governments.
“The Corporate Online Gambling Proposition was written for the sole benefit of out-of-state gambling corporations,” assertedPat Fong Kushida, President and CEO of the California Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce. “This measure would give online gambling corporations near total control over the sports wagering market, effectively hijacking any local economic benefits for our small businesses, while sending 90% of profits from sports gambling out-of-state and even out of country.”
Julian Canete, President of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, added:“This reckless measure would turn virtually every cell phone, tablet, laptop and video game console in California into a gambling device – exposing our kids and other vulnerable communities to the highly addictive nature of online gambling. All at the same time, it would jeopardize good-paying jobs and revenues for our communities and economy.”
Homeless groups back online betting proposal
On the other side of the ballot, more than a dozen homelessness and housing service organizations and local leaders have joined the coalition to pass the California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act.
Proponents say the initiative will deliver “hundreds of millions of dollars” each year to fight homelessness and fund mentalhealth and addiction treatment in California by licensing, tightly regulating, and taxing online sports betting conducted in partnership with California’s Tribes.
They noted nearly half the country hascreated a “safe and responsible” online sports betting marketplace.
“The initiative strictly limits betting to individuals age 21 and over and blocks minors from using legal sports betting platforms by utilizing state-of-the-art identity verification technology,” backers said.
“Our organization strongly supports the initiative,” said Miguel Perez, Executive Director of the Kings Tulare HomelessAlliance. “Homelessness is at a crisis point across this state. This provides a safe and responsible path to legalizing online sports betting and generating hundreds of millions of dollars each year that will help local leaders fight homelessness. California can’t afford not to act.”
“Every solution to homelessness – the crisis in all our neighborhoods – necessitates long-term and stable funding,” said Jamie Almanza, CEO of Bay Area Community Services. “We have to get vulnerable Californians off the streets and prevent homelessness before it starts, so this crisis does not worsen. By creating a safe and age-restricted online sports betting market, California can capture hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and use it to help solve one of our greatest challenges. This funding will be used to build housing and help provide mental health treatment to our neighbors in need.”
Nathan Click, a spokesperson for the initiative, noted it is supported not only by the sportsbook operators, but also the mayors of five
of California’s largest cities: Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, and Henry Lo, City of Monterey Park, along with Council Member Ali Sajjad Taj, City of Artesia.
In addition, nine homelessness or mental health service providers back the measure, including All Home, a statewide homelessness service provider, the Regional Task Force on Homelessness for the San Diego area, The United Way of Greater Los Angeles, Community Forward San Francisco, Kings Tulare Homeless Alliance, and theSacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness.
The National Hispanic Council on Aging and the San Francisco Housing Accelerator Fund also recently endorsed the measure. According to Click, all of these groups recognize the need for a monetary source to address the homeless crisis in the Golden State.
“California relies on capital gains tax to fund its budget and homelessness solutions are funded exclusively by one-time dollars,” he explained.
“Next year, with the stock market in decline, we are going to be in a completely new situation. There is a need for sustainable funding, and our measure provides this.”
Click dismissed concerns about underage gambling, arguing 25 states have legalizedonline sports betting, and have proventhat it can be done safely and responsibly.
“Age verification technology is used by banks and financial institutions to prove identity. To sign up for an online sports betting account, the person’s identity must be verified, with a financial institution account in his or her name,” he said.
“Californians currently spend millions of dollars using illegal, offshore operators, with no consumer protections. Why not set up a safe, responsible marketplace?”
The online proposition recently submitted 1.6 million signatures, which are being verified by county registrars. It needs 1.1 million to qualify for the ballot, with Click reporting the validity rate has been 75%, “which means we will get the number we need.”
“On June 30, the Secretary of State will confirm which measures will be on the ballot, and it will be off to the races,” he said.