Support for a pair of California sports betting propositions on the 2022 ballot continues to wane with six weeks to go before Election Day.
As a result, the battle to legalize sports betting in the state could shift to 2024.
Prop. 26, also known as the Legalize Sports Betting on American Indian Lands Initiative, would legalize retail sports betting at tribal casinos and licensed racetracks in the state.
Prop. 27 (the Legalize Sports Betting and Revenue for Homelessness Prevention Fund Initiative) would legalize online sports betting while using 85% of all tax revenue to address homelessness and mental health services in California.
Despite more than $400 million spent on the two initiatives, opposition has been pouring in on both sides.
The California Republican Party came out in opposition to both propositions in August. The state’s Democratic Party announced its opposition to Prop. 27 in late July, while saying it would remain neutral on Prop. 26.
The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board came out against both in early September.
Voting no on both measures in November won’t mean an end to the fight, however. Instead, it will mark a new beginning.
Tribal Groups Preparing for 2024
The California Tribal Government Mobile and Retail Sports Betting Initiative, which was brought forth last year before going dormant, is already trying to get on the ballot for 2024.
Initiative organizers submitted more than 1.3 million signatures (a little less than 1 million are needed to qualify), and those signatures are currently being evaluated by the California Secretary of State’s Office.
The proposition would allow the Golden State’s tribes to offer retail and mobile sports betting. This year’s Prop. 26 would allow tribes to offer retail betting only, while Prop. 27 would allow online wagering directed by national operators rather than the tribes.
The major backer behind the pending 2024 tribal sports betting initiative is the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, who are the largest contributor to the campaign against Prop. 27.
The San Bernadino County tribe has given $28,047,631 to block the current online sports betting measure.
So far, the San Manuel has given $10,022,845 in support of the 2024 ballot drive, with the Rincon Band of Luiseno Mission Indians of the Rincon Reservation giving $2.5 million.
The main tribal backers of Prop. 26 are the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.
“As I have said from the beginning, all roads go through the tribes,” Brendan Bussmann, who serves as the managing partner of gaming consultant firm B Global, told BetCalfornia.com last week. “With that said, you have to get a majority of the tribes on the same page first.”
What Has Derailed Props. 26 & 27?
Thanks in large part to extravagant advertising spend by the “No on Prop. 27” camp (which dumped $114.1 million to block the measure vs. $100 million for the “Yes on Prop. 27” side), the prospects for legal wagering to pass in 2022 appear dim.
A recent survey from the Public Policy Institute of California found that 34% of voters approved of Prop. 27, compared to 54% that did not and 12% that weren’t sure.
Representatives from the “Yes on 27” campaign told Los Angeles’ ABC7 they are done running ads for the next few weeks in response to flagging support for the measure.
“Prop 27 has taken over $100 million in misleading and false TV attacks — $45 million before we even qualified for the ballot,” Nathan Click, representative for the "Yes on 27" Campaign, told BetCalifornia. “It's telling the same opponents funding these ads haven't spent a dime on commercials supporting their own sports betting proposal, Prop. 26. Clearly, the saturated television market is not benefiting either side, so our campaign is putting those dollars toward additional direct communication with voters in order to pass Prop. 27 — the only sports betting measure that provides real solutions to communities and non-profit organizations in California.
“Only Prop. 27 will dedicate hundreds of millions of permanent funding that can be used for solutions like tiny homes, permanent supportive housing and mental health treatment to help get people off the street. Twenty-five states have authorized safe and responsible online sports betting and cracked down on the illicit and unsafe offshore sports betting market. California should be next.”
Kathy Fairbanks, who serves as a spokesperson for Prop. 26, told BetCalifornia.com in an emailed statement the campaign is not ready to give up hope. Fairbanks said the 2022 campaign is also not ready to endorse the 2024 initiative.
“We’re not evaluating or taking a position on that potential ballot measure in 2024. We’re focused on 2022 and defeating Prop. 27,” Fairbanks said.
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