DraftKings CEO Doesn't See California Sports Betting Getting Legalized by 2024

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
DraftKings CEO Doesn't See California Sports Betting Getting Legalized by 2024

If we're being honest, nobody quite knows how the future of legal sports betting in California will play out. The vast majority of people believed California sports betting would get the voters' stamp of approval at the polls this past November. Both measures on the ballot failed instead. That means we should take anything said on the matter now, more than 18 months ahead of the 2024 general elections, with a metric ton of salt.

Then again, every so often someone in a notable position says something worth taking seriously. This is one of those times.

DraftKings CEO, Jason Robins, recently admitted that he doesn't see California sports betting getting legalized during the current legislative cycle. To be clear, Mr. Robins isn't a lawmaker himself. He's not in legislative meetings. But he does head up one of the top online sportsbooks in the United States—the same sportsbook that was instrumental in financially backing Proposition 27, which would have legalized online sports betting throughout California.

As such, Mr. Robins is in a unique position to know the tenor of discussions that have taken place. What's more, as someone who personally stands to benefit a great deal through legal sports betting, he has every reason to convey optimism. If he's saying the largest sports betting market in the United States won't actually legalize gambling in time for the 2024 general elections, we absolutely need to parse the details of his comments.

Why DraftKings CEO Doesn't See California Sports Betting Getting Legalized by 2024

Robins explained his thoughts on the status of California sports betting at length during a recent YouTube interview. Here's the transcriptions of those comments, via Mike Mazzeo of Legal Sports Report:

“The fact is, if someone wants to spend that much in opposition, it makes it tough. So until we figure out a way to work that out, I don’t think it’s a 2024 thing. I think I’m talking long-term, when I think, eventually, it doesn’t matter what someone wants to spend. It’s just self-evident that this is something California should be doing. But that’s not in the next year or two, I think. There’s gotta be a deal worked out, or else we’re just going to be in a stalemate there for at least another cycle or two.” 

Robins is referencing the money that California tribes spent campaigning against Proposition 27 last year. Their financial commitment to counter-advertising exceeded nine figures, according to multiple estimates. That shows a level of commitment you can't expect to fade overnight.

And to date, it hasn't.

California Tribes Still Pushing for Gaming Exclusivity

Proposition 26, which was introduced by California's tribes prior to the last election, would have allowed on-site gambling at select licensed casinos. Online sportsbooks were seen as an existential threat to the tribal casino business model, which made it difficult to find common ground on the issue.

That hasn't yet changed. Everything we've read and heard makes it clear California tribes only want online sportsbooks to serve essentially as their tech support; they don't want them to operate inside the state independently. 

These sentiments can always shift. There's a lot of money to be made for all the primary stakeholders. But California tribes don't yet seem willing to budge. In fact, casinos in California don't think voters even want online sports betting.

It's hard to tell whether that's an accurate statement or an opinion driven by agenda. On the one hand, multiple polls conducted in 2022 showed California voters were generally in favor of sports betting in some form. But two sports betting initiatives then failed during the general elections. That suggests Californians may not be as interested as initially led to believe.

Industry experts and lawmakers have said California sports betting opposition was borne from overexposure to advertising and inconsistent messaging rather than pure disdain. That might be true. But that doesn't necessarily increase the chances of California sports betting getting legalized by 2024. If anything, it only reinforces what the DraftKings CEO said: Sports betting won't come to the state if there continues to be this much division on what form it should take.

Hope Still Alive for California Sports Betting?

Robins was not all doom and gloom during his YouTube interview. He did offer some hope for California sports betting proponents near the end. “I think the more time people in California get exposed to the messages, and the more that they’re able to sift through what’s true and what’s not, I think you’ll see more momentum towards hopefully in 2024," he explained. 

Upon first read, this runs counter to the overexposure theory. If California voters were turned off by sports betting because of advertising, how will more of it help?

For starters, it could be more uniform. Mixed messages were sent from both supporters of Proposition 26 and Proposition 27 throughout the 2022 election cycle. Voters were inundated with conflicting information. This time around, both sides could do a better job of clearly expressing what their bills would do.

Ultimately, though, the odds of legalization for California sports betting will be at their highest if the state can achieve some semblance of unity. Putting two measures on the 2024 ballot will yet again create division and engender counter-campaigning. Limiting the ballot to one initiative will make it easier for voters to interpret.

Of course, this would mean California tribes and online operators will have to find common ground. That, or it will be on the House and Senate to approve one measure over another. For now, there's no telling what the end result will be. California legislature meeting adjourn in September. That means this issue will likely remain unresolved for another few months.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can decide which one meets all of your 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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