California Sports Betting: Online-Wagering Measure Headed for Ballot, Backers Say

The stage is now set for an intense and expensive battle between digital bookmakers and Native American tribes in the Golden State.

Last Updated: May 4, 2022 11:22 AM ET Read Time: 2 min
Cody Bellinger Los Angeles Dodgers MLB
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The group behind a campaign to legalize online sports betting in California says it has the signatures needed to get its measure on November’s election ballot.

Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support (whose financial backers include BetMGM, DraftKings, and FanDuel) recently announced they had submitted 1.6 million petition signatures, far more than the approximately 1.1 million required to qualify a ballot measure.

The sportsbook-backed initiative would permit online sports betting in the state in partnership with its Native American tribes. Residents would have to be 21 or older to bet.

Supporters of the ballot measure say it would generate hundreds of millions of dollars annually to fight homelessness and fund mental-health treatment. 

“Nearly half of the states in the nation have safely and responsibly legalized online sports betting,” said Tamera Kohler, chief executive officer of the Regional Task Force on Homelessness San Diego, in a press release. “These states are using this revenue to solve big challenges. California should be next.”

Collision course

Although it is not official that the sportsbook-backed measure has qualified for the ballot, it would not be the only wagering-related initiative voters will have before them come November if it does get pushed forward.

Another measure has already qualified for the ballot in California that is supported by Native American tribes in the state and would allow for sportsbooks at tribal casinos and four horse-racing tracks.

The stage is now set for an intense and expensive battle between digital bookmakers and Native American tribes in the state. Many millions of dollars have been earmarked by the two sides for their campaigns, which could determine the fate of legal sports betting in the United States' biggest market. 

The tribes behind the retail-only initiative are opposed to the measure being pushed by the online sportsbook operators. The two sides have also touted dueling public-opinion polls that suggest different levels of support for the mobile-wagering measure.

“The Corporate Online Gambling Proposition would legalize online and mobile sports gambling — turning virtually every cell phone, laptop, tablet and gaming console into a gambling device, increasing the risks of underage and problem gambling,” said Tribal Chairman Cody Martinez, of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, in a press release published on Tuesday. “We will run a vigorous campaign against this measure and are confident the voters will see through the deceptive promises being made by these out-of-state gambling corporations.”

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