No 2020 vote to legalize sports betting in California

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Lawmaker pulls SCA 6 ahead of delayed suspense hearing.

Legal sports betting will not be voted on by California residents this year. On Monday, Constitutional Amendment 6 (SCA 6), which would have legalized mobile and land-based sports betting at tribal casinos and horse racetracks in California, was withdrawn from consideration by the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bill Dodd.

This announcement came a day before it faced a vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee in a delayed suspense hearing. The delay paired with the summer recess of the California Assembly, which started last Friday, was cause for concern as the bill had until 25 June to make it on the November ballot.  

“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 are not able to get the bill across the finish line this year,” Dodd said in a statement available on the California Senate’s website. “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 issues as we work toward 2022.”

SCA 6 was opposed by many California tribes because it would implement mobile and online wagering that could lead to limited regulations, less foot traffic at tribal casinos and allow card rooms to offer banked games like blackjack. The tribes called to voice their opposition at both senate hearings on the bill earlier this month.

The coronavirus also affected tribal efforts to petition for their own sports gambling initiative. Stay at home orders by Gov. Gavin Newsom kept the tribes from gathering the one-million-plus signatures needed by Thursday to get a referendum on the November ballot. The tribes had over 950,000 signatures and sued the state to extend the deadline for their petition. They now want their signatures collected before the shutdown to remain valid and look ahead to the 2022 ballot as well.

Whether the legislation comes from the tribes or lawmakers in the future, it’s clear legal sports betting will be financially beneficial to the most populous state with the largest professional sports market. According to the statement on the California Senate’s website, “legalization was expected to generate up to $700 million a year in tax revenue to help minimize cuts threatened by the expected budget deficit.” 

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