Attorney General's Office Approves Two New California Sports Betting Measures

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Jan 5, 2024 12:00 AM
The attorney general’s office has officially approved two new California sports betting proposals ahead of 2024 legislature meetings.

After some hemming and hawing, California sports betting is officially on the state’s 2024 legislature agenda

Many, of course, viewed this as a formality. Experts believe that sports betting in California would eclipse the total revenue generated by every other state if it’s legalized. Surely policymakers wouldn’t ignore the issue entirely when hundreds of millions of dollars in additional tax revenue are on the line.

And yet, going without any sports betting bills this year was reportedly a distinct possibility. Key stakeholders from all sides are still turned off by what happened in 2022. Two California sports betting bills made the general election ballot. One would have legalized California retail sports betting for tribal operators alone. The other would have also permitted online sportsbooks in the United States to enter the market. Both measures ended up flopping at the polls. Voters were, by and large, turned off by the conflicting messages sent by the backers of each bill.

Little has changed in the last 18 months. Critical roadblocks still stand between California sports betting and legalization. The tribes, companies and lobbyists who bankrolled the 2022 initiatives also remain turned off by how much money they spent and subsequently wasted trying to pass the previous measures. This combination of frustration and the absence of common ground suggested that California sports betting might not be a top priority when the state legislature convenes later this year. 

Apparently, though, this will not be the case. The California Attorney General’s office has officially approved another two sports betting measures ahead of 2024 legislature meetings. 

What does this latest development mean? Let’s try to figure it out.

Details of Both California Sports Betting Bills are Still Trickling Out

The full parameters of the 2024 California sports betting bills are still in the process of trickling out. But Egr.global broke down the jist of what they are expected to look like:

“The first, Initiative 23-0035, ‘The Common Sense Initiative to Protect California Kids Online,’ is a tribal-centered initiative – which notably lacks the support of the state’s tribes – that would allow for table games and retail wagering at tribal casinos, with 25% of sports betting profits going to non-participating tribes. An additional 1% would go back to the state in return for regulatory oversight. Language in the second measure, Initiative 23-0031, is significantly shorter on details but would pave the way for online betting to be offered on tribal lands as part of a constitutional amendment.”

Gambling enthusiasts in California likely breathed a sigh of relief upon finding out another round of sports betting measures would be on the table. But that relief has no doubt dissipated.

Putting two California sports betting measures in front of lawmakers once again could simply lead to the same result. If both initiatives make it through, it could create another war of counter-campaigning. 

Of course, this presumes even one of these bills is bound to receive the stamp of approval from the California House of Representatives and Senate. That’s hardly a guarantee. 

In fact, the outlook on both of these sports betting measures in 2024 is fairly bleak. Neither of them has tribal support, which is considered pivotal to eventually bringing legal sports gambling to The Golden State. On top of that, the Indian Gaming Association already voted to staunchly oppose multiple sports betting bills just a few weeks ago. And at least one of those sports betting bills is among the proposals scheduled to appear before the state legislature.

Why Do California’s Tribes Generally Oppose These 2024 Sports Betting Initiatives?

We already talked about why tribes (and certain sports betting providers) are reluctant to propose another batch of California betting bills for the 2024 legislature meetings. But why do the tribes, specifically, oppose the measures that are on the table? Especially when there’s an option that wouldn’t permit online sportsbooks in the USA from infringing upon their market?

The answer isn’t very complicated. Put simply, the tribes have said they were not consulted during the formulation of these sports betting initiatives. 

Frankly, in our opinion, there is no coming back from this gaffe. Tribes in The Golden State have gaming exclusivity, which covers sports betting. Their support is crucial to the approval of any constitutional amendment that expands the state’s gambling market. The authors of these 2024 measures cannot hope to successfully advance them without ever speaking to or negotiating terms with the tribes. 

To be honest, it’s bizarre that anyone would even try to pass California sports betting laws without tribal input or support. Last year’s online-sportsbook-backed measure ended up flopping even harder than the tribal-proposed initiative. And there’s no mystery as to why. State officials ended up speaking out against the California online sports betting bill. That’s how much influence the tribes have over these proceedings.

So, What Does the Future Hold for California Sports Betting?

Immediately, nothing good is brewing on the California sports betting front. 

At the risk of being too blunt, we would give both of these sports betting measures in California less than a 1 percent of making it on the 2024 general election ballot. We just can’t see even one of the House or Senate approving them. 

If California sports betting is ever going to be legalized, it must be in collaboration with the state’s tribes. And that’s going to require concessions mostly on behalf of the best online sportsbooks in the USA. They can spend as much money as they want on blocking tribal-proposed legislation. They might even be successful doing so. But they’re not going to pass their own measure or be allowed to enter the California betting market in any capacity if they don’t negotiate directly with the tribes.

And to this point, those negotiations don’t appear to be in play. Both tribal and corporate sportsbook officials have said they’re willing to speak with one another, but there’s been no signs that those conversations have actually taken place.

So what does that mean for the future of sports betting in The Golden State? As things currently stand, it means California will not be legalizing sports betting before 2026. That could change. The 2024 legislature meetings have yet convened. But the state is quickly running out of time to shift the status quo. 

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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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