Prominent Tribal Leader Claims California Voters Don't Want Online Sports Betting

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
Prominent Tribal Leader Claims California Voters Don't Want Online Sports Betting

Remember when legal sports betting in California was considered a formality? Well, so much for that. We continue to see and hear things that suggest California voters are having second thoughts—or that they never supported the legalization of sports betting in the first place.

The latest wrinkle? A prominent tribal leader claims they know for a fact California voters don't want online sports betting.

Are they blowing smoke? Posturing? Or is this accurate? And if so, how likely is California sports betting now? Will it pass in 2022? Or will the state have to wait another two years to try again?

Let's dig into the details.

Yet Another Poll Shows California Voters aren't in Love with Legal Sports Betting

Yet Another Poll Shows California Voters aren't in Love with Legal Sports Betting

Mark Macarro, the chairman for the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, recently said that California voters are overwhelmingly against the implementation of online sports betting. Skeptics will argue that he's biased. He is, after all, a chairman for one of the tribes most actively pushing against California online sports betting. He almost has to say something along these lines.

At the same time, Mr. Maccaro wasn't just churning out gut feelings. Instead, he says that the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians conducted an extensive poll and found that a whopping 62 percent of California voters are against mobile sports wagering. 

“They don’t want mobile anything," Maccaro told Legal Sports Report and PlayCA of California voters in mid-October at the G2E Conference in Las Vegas. "They just don’t. As long as that is the case, it doesn’t matter how much money (operators) throw around."

Maccaro, of course, is referring to the nine figures worth of funds being thrown around the California sports betting business. Between the two competing propositions, aptly called Prop 26 and Prop 27, there has been almost half a billion dollars spent on advertising and lobbying, a number that makes the push for California sports betting the most expensive ballot initiative in the history of the United States.

Plenty of people still won't accept Maccaro's findings. Again: The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians are among the tribes actively trying to prevent online sports betting in California. Conducting and citing their own poll creates all sorts of potential issues. But here's the thing: Their poll is not alone.

There is Growing Unrest Among California Voters When It Comes to Sports Betting

In early October, a poll was conducted by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies and the Los Angeles Times to determine how many California voters supported the legalization of sports betting. According to the results, most residents are actually against it.

For Prop 27 specifically, which would green light online sports betting throughout the state, the poll showed over 53 percent outright opposed it and that 20 percent of California voters remained undecided. This at first glance seems like a win for Prop 26,  which would allow Native American casinos and California’s four horse race tracks to offer in-person sports betting and permit tribal casinos to begin offering roulette and dice games. But it's not.

According to the same poll conducted by UC Berkeley and the Los Angeles Times, Prop 26 was supported by just 31 percent of California voters while 27 percent remained undecided. Based on these results, experts have now determined that both 2022 California sports betting bills will fail.

Time Will Tell Where California Voters Stand on Legal Online Sports Betting

Election polls always need to be taken with a grain of salt. It isn't always possible to survey enough of the population to get an accurate portrayal of an entire state's leanings.

We've seen presidential polls at major news outlets incorrectly predict the winner. This is a matter that calls for much less scrutiny. It's possible California voters will still pass one of the two sports betting bills.

In fact, many believe that Californians had simply grown fatigued from incessant messaging by the backers of Prop 26 and Prop 27. So much money was spent on commercials and public lobbying that it may have created overexposure and had unintended consequences. With the November 2022 elections just a few weeks away, both sports betting initiatives have more strategically placed their messaging, opting for timing over volume. 

Time will tell whether the polls were wrong. California voters head to the polls in less than a month, which means we'll have our answer in just a few short weeks.

What Happens if Neither California Sports Betting Bill Passes?

What Happens if Neither California Sports Betting Bill Passes?

In the event both California sports betting bills fail, residents will be best served exploring alternatives. Nevada, along with some other legal sports betting states, is a manageable drive away. Californians can also sign up with one of the reputable sites that appears in our reviews of the top online sportsbooks. Most of them offer their services to anyone in the Pacific Time Zone.

As for California sports betting itself, well, that's more complicated.

If both Prop 26 and Prop 27 fail, chances are the state will have to regroup and revisit the issue at the next round of legislative sessions. Those aren't scheduled until 2023. Though California could theoretically call for an emergency session to reformulate the sports betting bills, most industry insiders don't see that happening. They instead think retail sportsbooks will redouble their efforts to lobby government officials in hopes of sticking a brand new set of initiatives on the next major election 2024.

Put another way: If both Prop 26 and Prop 27, it's going to be a while before legal sports betting comes to California.

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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