Lawmaker Pulls California Sports Betting From Consideration

Lawmaker Pulls California Sports Betting From Consideration
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A view of downtown San Diego from Coronado Tidelands Park (Picture: Rishi Deka/PA Images)

An attempt in California to get sports betting on the November ballot appears to be dead this legislative session.

Sen. Bill Dodd plans to pull his bill, SCA 6, from being considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, according to Bloomberg News. This likely pushes implementation of sports betting to 2023 — if it gets on the 2022 ballot and voters approve it.

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The legislation by Dodd and Assemblyman Adam Gray was met by opposition from California tribes at every hearing since it was introduced in May. That’s why Dodd has ended the effort to get the referendum on the ballot, Chris Palmeri, Los Angeles bureau chief for Bloomberg News, reported Monday.

“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 were not able to get the bill across the finish line this year,” Dodd said in a news release. “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 issue as we work toward 2022.”

The Senate Appropriations Committee was originally scheduled to vote on the legislation last Thursday, but Dodd postponed it until June 23 to gain more support. Based on Monday’s news, he was unable to satisfy the tribes.

Recent amendments by Dodd to SCA 6, including a phased-in start to mobile and online sports betting, stronger rules for card rooms and inclusion of funds for fairs and non-gaming tribes in the state, attempted to address concerns raised in previous Senate committee hearings.

But time was running out. The amendment had to pass through the legislature with two-thirds approval by June 25 for it to appear on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Tribes Have Own Sports Betting Measure

There is still a slight chance the tribes can get their own sports betting question on the November ballot, but 2022 seems more likely. The Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering filed a lawsuit in Sacramento County Superior Court on June 9 seeking a 90-day extension to acquire signatures. The proposal by the tribes does not include mobile or online sports betting.

The suit says tribes were unable to acquire enough signatures to reach the required threshold because of social distancing concerns brought on by the coronavirus. The tribes were well on their way to having enough signatures when the state’s stay-at-home order made it difficult to get additional signatures, the lawsuit contends.

Dodd and Gray sought to bring sports betting to California to help raise tax revenue for the state. California is facing a $54 billion budget deficit because of the pandemic. Projections have sports betting bringing in around $280 million in the first six months in taxes and licensing fees and about $500 million annually.

Supporters of sports betting in the state included card rooms, towns where card rooms are located, professional sports leagues and the pro teams in California.

But since Dodd and Gray introduced the amendment, that support has been drowned out by opposition from the tribes. And the state with potentially the largest sports-betting market will have to wait to see any revenue from it.