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California Sports Betting Bill Pulled From Discussion For 2020

Tribal Opposition Killed The Bill, Which Would've Generated $700 Million In Annual Tax Revenue


A bill circulating through the California legislature that would legalize sports betting has been shelved for the year.

Sen. Bill Dodd pulled SCA 6 from discussion Monday as getting all the different competing interest groups in California’s gambling landscape on the same page proved too difficult of a task before the deadline. If the bill had passed, it would give voters the final say on the matter in November with a statewide ballot referendum that would alter the state’s constitution to allow sports betting.

According to a Los Angeles Times report, the legislature had until Thursday to pass legislation for a 2020 referendum, but the Assembly is not in session again until next Friday.

“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,” said Dodd in a statement. “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.”

Dodd also said that he will try to pass this legislation again next year. Since it will take a ballot referendum to get legal sports betting in California, citizens will not have the opportunity to vote until November 2022. It makes 2023 the earliest that Californians could start wagering.

According to Dodd’s estimates, legalizing sports betting could reap $700 million per year in tax revenue for the state.

Opposition from the Native American tribes that own and operate more than 60 casinos in the Golden State were the driving force behind killing the legislation.

The bill would have allowed the tribes and the racetracks to operate both brick-and-mortar and online sportsbooks. The commercial cardrooms would be allowed to spread house-backed card games like blackjack, which are currently supposed to be exclusive to the tribes, and the tribes would be allowed to spread craps and roulette.

The tribes have been unhappy with the current agreement for some time as they feel that cardrooms have been breaking the law and offering games like blackjack illegally and have never been prosecuted for it. Tribes wanted more out of the legislation and their opposition made it impossible for the bill to receive the necessary two-thirds majority to pass through the Assembly.

Beyond that, the tribes began the signature collecting process for a constitutional amendment regarding sports betting before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in mid-March. When Gov. Gavin Newsom shut down the state’s economy, the tribes were about 20,000 signatures short of the nearly 1 million signatures needed to put tribal-only sports betting on the ballot this November.

The pandemic forced them to pause those efforts and a group of tribes are in the midst of a lawsuit against the state, asking the state to extend the June 25 deadline until July 20. If the tribes win the lawsuit and collect the remaining signatures, the issue could be on the ballot this November, but it would give exclusivity to the tribes.