Analysis

California sports-betting petition gains 1.4m signatures

A proposed ballot measure which received over 1.4m signatures is the latest sign of a potential breakthrough for sports betting in California.

California voters could yet get the chance to vote on allowing sports betting after a ballot measure proposed by tribal gaming interests received over 1.4m signatures.

The ballot measure would specifically allow retail sports-betting at tribal casinos in the state.

The number of signatures was confirmed earlier this week by Jacob Mejia, the spokesman for the California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act.

A coalition of 18 tribes proposed the ballot initiative. The petition needed to hit 1.1m signatures in order for it to be considered.

In addition to allowing sports betting, the initiative would also authorize craps and roulette to take place at the tribal venues.

Any actual ballot question would have to wait until the 2022 mid-term elections for it to be voted on.

Opposition

Those against the measure include the card rooms. The California Gaming Association, which represents the cardrooms, said the tribal proposal was “self-serving”.

They also accused the tribes of seeking to extend their gaming monopoly.

There are still hopes that a legislative bill that would open up mobile sports betting might gain traction.

However, the tribes have successfully opposed previous attempts and will try and do so once more.

The tribes are against the potential for online wagering.

Pots of gold

The rest of the sector will watch developments intensely.

According to estimates from Deutsche Bank, a fully online sports-betting market would be worth up to $1.4bn in gross gaming revenue at maturity.

However, in a note analyst Carlo Santarelli said retail-only forecasts would likely need to be reduced up to 50% or more.

According to the Wedge Index which measures states by the gaming friendliness, California is T19th.

Excitement over any move in California is understandable. It is the largest state and if considered alone it has the potential to be the largest market globally.

Difficult route

However, moves to open it up to sports-betting and other forms of online gaming have serially failed to negotiate a treacherous landscape of competing interests.

Mejia said the measure was a “responsible” way to look at regulating sports-betting.

The bill would generate new revenues for public safety, mental health program “while giving Californians the opportunity to participate in this activity.”

Bu Santarelli noted that not to include cardrooms in any plans was the “clear flaw.”

“We see the initiative, in its current form, as a net negative,” he added. He added, however, that he believed the tribes were themselves divided over the issue of mobile betting.

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Scott Longley

Scott Longley has been a journalist since the early noughties covering personal finance, sport and the gambling industry. He has worked for a number of publications including Investor's Week, Bloomberg Money, Football First, EGR and GamblingCompliance.com. He now writes for online and print titles across a wide range of sectors.

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