Prominent Lobbyist Says California Sports Betting Proposals Need Overhaul by 2024

Prominent Lobbyist Says California Sports Betting Proposals Need Overhaul by 2024

If the green light is going to be given to sports betting in California during the 2024 elections, there needs to be major headway made when re-orienting the next round of legal gambling initiatives. Put another way: The future of California sports betting proposals is tightly tethered to opposing sides finding a middle ground—or one of them firmly overtaking the other.

At least, this is what one prominent lobbyist is saying on the matter.

Bill Pascrell III is a lawyer and lobbyist who has consulted on many legal sports betting campaigns, including the failed Proposition 27 measure put forth by a group of corporate retail sportsbooks. Recently, at the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States conference in Las Vegas, he spoke with Legal Sports Report about the challenges that lie ahead for The Golden State.

"I am not about looking in the past, but to stop repeating that behavior, we as an industry have to sit down as co-equals with the tribes and work out a solution,” Pascrell said. “If that doesn’t happen, they could bring back sports betting on the ballot two years from now, four years from now, it will fail again. The tribes need to be respected.” 

This sentiment runs counter to what many others believe. The assumption has been California would join the legal sports betting ranks in 2024 after failing to do so in 2022. But Pascrell makes it sound like the potential for approval is at risk. And, frankly, he's not wrong. How could he be? We just saw California go from a shoo-in to legalize sports betting to a state whose voters rejected two separate gambling proposals. So, what is the gap separating the tribes and corporate sportsbooks? And what, if anything, can be done about it?

California Sports Betting Proposals Remain a Complicated

Bridging the gap between corporate sportsbooks and tribal casinos will not be easy. They didn't just disagree this past time. They stood on complete opposite ends of the spectrum.

Tribal casinos backed Proposition 26, which would have allowed only on-site sports betting inside tribal grounds and prevented online retailers from entering the highly coveted California sports betting market. Proposition 27, on the other hand, was bankrolled by a handful of retail sportsbooks and called for all forms of betting to be legalized, in-person and online.

Both parties ended up spending more than half-billion dollars on advertising for their campaigns. Much of that money was funneled toward counterarguments—advertisements aimed at discrediting the other proposal.

In a weird way, this approach worked.

Recent polls have shown the real reason California sports betting failed in 2022 was due to campaign overexposure. Voters grew equal parts confused, annoyed and exasperated by the unrelenting stream of conflicting information. Did Prop 27 really ensure some of the revenue would go toward combating homelessness, or was it all a hoax? Was Prop 26 overly concerned with keeping revenue inside the state rather than relinquishing some of it to country-wide sportsbooks, or were they just stubborn? Question after question surfaced, and as more information trickled out weekly, the over-saturation of it all led to the defeat of both sports betting bills by a definitively large margin.

Online Sportsbooks Face Uphill Battle Against California Tribes

Establishing a happy medium between the tribes and online retailers will be mission-critical ahead of 2024. Suppose the state once again presents voters with two separate California sports betting proposals. In that case, experts believe there's a good chance both measures will flop again, delaying any legal gambling launch until at least 2026.

Finding that middle ground is easier said than done, especially when the California tribes appear to hold all the leverage.

“The key takeaway from the election is that any future gaming expansion in California must go through the tribes,” San Manuel chief intergovernmental affairs officer Dan Little told Legal Sports Report. In other words, the tribes do not want to be viewed as business partners with online retailers. They want to be the driving operators of legal sports betting in California.

This is ostensibly why the tribes rejected the "gesture" within Prop 27. Under the terms, every licensed online sportsbook would have to partner up with a brick-and-mortar casino. This was viewed as a huge concession by the backers of Prop 27. Proponents of Prop 26 maintained it was an empty platitude design.

Based on the response from California lawmakers, the state at large sided with the tribes. Officials from both the Democratic and Republican parties denounced Prop 27 ahead of the 2022 election, which was ultimately seen as the death knell for the bill.

There Is No Easy Answer to California Sports Betting

Silver linings are hard to find at this point. Can retail online sportsbooks pay steeper fees and taxes to benefit tribal casinos in exchange for their licenses? Would that even appeal to the tribes? Or do they just want exclusive control over the delivery of California sports betting?

We won't have any answers at all until California legislature meetings begin. In the meantime, Californians will need to explore their alternatives. There are a handful of sites from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks that accept accounts from almost anywhere in the United States. Californians are also free to travel to a neighboring state, such as Nevada, that has already legalized sports betting.

For anyone in search of hope, we recommend clinging to the absence of a new California sports betting proposal. Seriously. We're not joking. The fact that neither the tribes nor the online sportsbooks have pushed through another bill of their own at least suggests they're committed to having a dialogue with each other this time around.

Whether those discussions will ensure California's legal sports betting actually arrives in 2024 is a different story.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for all of your sports betting needs:

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan is a sports betting writer who can tackle any topic from presidential elections to changes in the sports betting legislation federally and on the state level. He also writes picks for NFL.