Is California Sports Betting in Danger of Getting Left of 2024 Electoral Ballot?

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Aug 8, 2023 12:00 AM
Will a California sports betting bill appear on the 2024 electoral ballot?

Not two years ago, the legalization of sports betting in California was considered a formality. Indeed, policymakers were at odds over what it would like, but the overwhelming support from residents suggested they would pass a gambling measure—or two—if given an opportunity.

Skip ahead today, and nearly everything has changed. Multiple California sports betting bills failed to pass during the most recent general election. But hey, at least they appeared on the electoral ballot. Many aren’t so sure whether that will happen in 2024.

Numerous deadlines to submit measures for the next general election have come to pass. A California sports gambling measure remains conspicuously absent so far. It has many wondering whether the state will even offer the option to legalize some form of sports betting in 2024.

Is this concern premature? Or is this delay worth taking seriously, perhaps even a sign that The Golden State is moving further and further away from what was once considered an inevitable end result?

Zero California Sports Betting Bills are Currently Eligible to Appear on the 2024 Electoral Ballot

Though 2024 general elections are still roughly 16 to 17 months away at this writing, the planning for legislation that will appear on the ballots is already in full swing. Each state has suggested dates for when initiatives should be submitted so that they can ensure proper consideration in advance of the actual elections.

At least one of these submit-by dates has passed in California. Another is just around the corner. And yet, as Rebecca Hanchett outlined for Gaming Today, a 2024 California sports betting initiative doesn’t appear to have been filed:

Monday was the California Secretary of State’s suggested deadline to submit to the Attorney General any proposed initiative that hopes to qualify for the Nov. 5, 2024 ballot by the ‘full check’ method (requiring 100 percent verification of petition signatures). Meeting that deadline would give the Attorney General about two months—until Sept. 7—to prepare an official title and summary required to circulate an initiative petition, while allowing time for each signature to be checked if necessary. So far, however, no sports betting initiatives that could be declared eligible for the 2024 general election have been posted to the Attorney General’s website.

Aug. 22 is the next suggested deadline for 2024 initiatives to be submitted to the Attorney General. That deadline applies to initiatives that hope to qualify for the ballot using the ‘random check’ method, or sampling of verified signatures—the method that most initiatives use.”

For now, the absence of a California sports betting proposal could speak more to a delay. But given the obstacles currently impeding legalization, it could also be a harbinger of something more.

Why These Passing Deadlines Matter for the Future of California Sports Gambling

Many experts would preach patience in this case. There is technically plenty of time for a sports betting bill to qualify for the 2024 electoral ballot if policymakers are amply motivated. 

As Hanchett noted, “according to the California Secretary of State’s website, the deadline to qualify for the ballot falls at least 131 days before the general election, or around June 27, 2024 for next year’s general election. This gives the state almost a year to hash out the details of a sports wagering bill, a timeline that allows the House of Representatives and Senate to deliberate this matter during 2024 legislative sessions.

Still, this all presumes that sports gambling tops the legislative agenda, and that all the necessary stakeholders are committed to churning out a bill in time for the general election ballot. At one time, this would have been a reasonable assumption. It’s not anymore.

Neither the tribes (who sponsored Proposition 26 in 2022) nor some of the best online sportsbooks in the USA (who sponsored Proposition 27 in 2022) have committed to submitting another bill. And while they have until June 2024 to turn in one, these matters are usually filed further in advance. That’s why the absence of a submission from either side, let alone both, is at the very least curious. 

Will Both Tribes and Online Operators Really Punt on a 2024 California Sports Betting Bill?

On some level, it’s hard to imagine both tribes and online operators opting against the filing of a 2024 sports betting bill. Each side basically said they would “re-evaluate” their approach after their 2022 initiatives were thoroughly shot down. Almost nobody figured that would result in sitting out the 2024 election entirely.

For what it’s worth, our money is still on at least one California sports betting bill making the 2024 ballot. And if it’s one party that’s going to sit this one out, it’ll probably be the online operators.

Corporate sportsbooks sunk millions upon millions of dollars into their 2022 campaign. That money ended up having a negative impact on their chances. Californians were exhausted by the overexposure to dueling campaigns, and the online sportsbooks measure, specifically, was rejected by more than 75 percent of voters.

On top of that, the future of California sports gambling remains dominated by tribal influence. They have exclusivity to gaming rights. No legalization of online sports betting is happening without their consent. And to date, California tribes have remained against online operators receiving independent licenses. Tribes prefer that these retail sportsbooks help them run their own gambling sites and mobile wagering applications in exchange for a fee or cut of the revenue. Corporations, for their part, have so far balked at this proposal. That’s why many believe retail sportsbooks will stay on the sidelines in 2024. There’s no use in investing large amounts of money in a campaign that needs tribal approval it won’t get. 

This should, in turn, ensure the tribes themselves attempt to get a tribal-only initiative off the ground. Then again, the fact that they haven’t filed one now could be ominous. Both parties may still have some time, but if they wind up missing the August 22 deadline, we’ll need to start having some awkward discussions about California’s sports betting future—or, to be more accurate, the lack of it.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan first began writing about sports back in 2011. At the time, his expertise lied in the NBA and NFL. More than one decade, that remains the case. But he's also expanded his catalog to include extensive knowledge and analysis on the NHL, MLB, tennis, NASCAR, college ba...

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