California Voters Getting Confused by Unclear Legal Sports Betting Initiatives

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Sep 4, 2022 08:00 PM
California Voters Getting Confused by Unclear Legal Sports Betting Initiatives

As things currently stand, California is widely expected to legalize sports betting on their November ballot. Polls show voters are overwhelmingly in favor of it, and there's a belief that the state is itching to have the betting infrastructure set up in time for the 2022 NFL regular season. And yet, conflicting messages surrounding California's sports betting initiatives are suddenly threatening their livelihood, and no one quite knows what that might mean.

If you're confused about the future of legal sports betting in California, we can promise you that you're not alone. In fact, you might be a member of the vast majority at this point, because it seems California voters are getting confused by sports betting initiatives they deem unclear ahead of the November 2022 elections.

Conflicting messages via video advertisements are being cited as the primary culprits behind this state of incomprehension. Not only are there multiple sports betting bills from which to choose, but there are no fewer than two sides—opponents and proponents—to each one. Coupled with rather ambiguous titles atop each bill, California voters have every right to feel lost and frustrated.

It is now on the parties associated with each sports betting proposal to get their messages across, clearly and concisely. Whether there's enough time to achieve such clarity is debatable. And as a result, the future of sports betting seems up in the air unless Californians are given more concrete direction on what exactly they are tasked with ratifying.

California's First Sports Betting Bill is Drawing Widespread Criticism

The first sports betting initiative that has Californians scratching their heads is called the “California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Act.” Many have seemingly been confused by the name, which is verbose and ambiguous. More than that, though, the messaging for it has been lopsided.

Or rather, should we say the messaging against it has been lopsided.

To date, there have been more video ads railing against the California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Act than advertising that promotes it. Messaging has focused on how dangerous the bill can be for the economy, because it not only gives control of sports betting licenses to a select group of tribes inside California, but it grants them the ability to go after other casinos and card rooms if they aren’t following the proposed guidelines to the letter.

Of course, larger sportsboooks like DraftKings and FanDuel, among others, also oppose this measure. And they have spent money lobbying against it. But at the core of this bill is genuine concern for communities that rely upon casinos and card rooms for jobs and revenue. If a select group of tribes has the ability to go after them or pull business out of their door by refusing them access to sports betting licenses, there could be an economic trickle-down effect.

Some have hoped the tribes might be willing to budge and open up their bill to local card rooms and casinos. That hasn’t been the case. And as the money being spent on advertising against it suggests, there are plenty of people with a vested interest who are worried that the name of the bill itself might attract voter attention, since it’s worded to almost imply there would be a crackdown on “illegal” sports betting after it’s greenlit when it’s actually a bill that lays out a borderline monopoly on the industry.

Advertising Campaigns Misleading Voters on Second California Sports Betting Bill

There is an alternative sports betting bill set to make an appearance on California’s November 2022 ballot that would allow for more open implementation of gambling in casinos and card rooms and online. Under this bill, everyone in California could use any one of the top sportsbooks from our online reviews. The problem? Its name doesn’t spell out any of that.

This alternative initiative is called “California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Supporting Act.” The bill’s name is designed to represent how it has earmarked a certain amount of sports betting revenue for fighting homelessness each year. 

Sounds great, right? On the surface, sure. But it is also misleading. There is fine print within the bill that essentially means only an additional 3 percent of sports betting revenue will be directed towards fighting homelessness, according Rob Stutzman, a spokesperson for a group called Tribal Sovereignty and Safe Gaming. Tribes are fearful California residents will see the name and gravitate towards it without having a firm idea of what the bill actually accomplishes. They have, in turn, expended time and resources to try clarifying the message.

Confusion and Deceit Threaten Sports Betting in California

Everything we've just discussed could have a massive impact on the sports betting vote in November. Will Californians gravitate toward the more limiting tribal-centric bill because it sounds like one that will legal sports gambling while effectively policing it? Or will they be drawn to a more open-ended bill designed to sound like it supports fighting homelessness more than it actually does?

It can seem like there's no good answer—for now, anyway. The state still has a few months to ensure California constituents are properly informed on the ins and outs of each bill, and it should feel an ethical obligation to do so. Especially because there's no slowing this train now. There is legal sports betting in the USA for more than half the states. California voters are bound to fall in line with the majority of the country. It's on the state to make sure their residents aren't choosing their sports betting bill haphazardly, a responsibility it's seemingly failing to uphold at the moment.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can decide which one will work for all of your online sports betting needs:

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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