It is widely expected that California legal sports betting will be approved when voters take to the polls in November 2022 and get to voice their opinions on the matter. What's less clear about legal sports betting in California is the form it will take if and when it's passed into law.
At least two different sports betting initiatives will appear on this fall's ballot. There's the potential for one or two more, depending on how things shake out between now and November. For the time being, though, there have been two sports betting bills confirmed to appear on the ballot. The first is the California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act, which is backed by the state's federally recognized tribes. The second is the California Solutions for Homelessness and Mental Health Act, which is the most recent addition and one that has been initiated and backed by corporate retail sportsbooks like FanDuel and DraftKings.
Many of you might already know the names and origins of both bills. You are most definitely familiar with them if you live in California. But the details of each bill, and what they mean for the state of California have been largely obscured—discussed in drips and drabs but never in full context.
This all changes now.
With the November elections just a few short months away, full details have emerged for both of California's sports betting proposals. And we've decided to go through them both, so you can get an idea of what voters will ultimately be choosing between.
Full Details of Tribal-Backed California Legal Sports Betting Bill
Let's begin with the California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act, since that was the first to be proposed, passed and, for a long time, profiled as the only sports betting bill that would make the 2022 ballot. Here are the most noteworthy bullet points, courtesy of the California Gambling Control Commission:
- 10 percent tax on gross gaming revenue related to sports betting.
- Allows retail-only sports betting on tribal lands and at horse tracks located in Alameda, Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego. This would preclude corporate online sportsbooks like DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars, BetMGM, etc. from accepting wagers. It also prohibits local card rooms from taking bets, as well as excluding sports venues from setting up betting kiosks.
- Prohibits wagering on high school sports and all athletic events in which any California college team participates. This means UCLA, USC and Stanford, among many other universities, would be off-limits. Residents can, however, place waters on colleges that reside outside the state of California.
- Bettors must be physically present in a gaming area to place any wagers. This effectively means no bets placed online or through mobile betting apps.
- Permits both craps and roulette at Indian gaming casinos.
- Age requirement would be at least 21 years or older.
This proposal has drawn widespread criticism for creating a gaming monopoly among a select few California tribes, a model that many believe won't hold. Skeptics point to legal sports betting in Florida, which initially passed with similar terms to this, only to see sports betting entirely repealed in December 2021 and remain inactive to this day.
Many also see this particular sports betting bill resulting in a loss of potential revenue for the state at large. Residents won't simply not engage in online betting because California says so. There are plenty of sites from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks who will allow Californians to sign up and place bets. And that's precisely why the second sports betting bill was introduced.
Full Details of Corporate Sportsbook-Back California Betting Bill
Some serious marketing is at play with the California Solutions for Homelessness and Mental Health Act. The name is not only less convoluted than the previously discussed bill, but it stands out. Who, after all, wouldn't want to support an initiative that's supposed to help the homeless?
Here are the full details for this bill, once again courtesy of California Gambling Control Commission:
- 10 percent tax on gross gaming revenues related to sports betting.
- 85 percent of tax dollars received would go towards funding homelessness initiatives. However, there is fine print that stipulates this number is fungible and can be lowered.
- 15 percent of tax dollars received would go to Native American tribes that aren’t involved in digital sports wagering.
- Requires commercial sportsbooks to partner with a tribe for California online sports betting market access.
- Requires commercial sportsbooks to pay an initial $100 million licensing fee followed by a $10 million renewal fee every five years.
- Allows tribes to offer online sports betting under their own name and branding after paying an initial $10 million licensing fee to the state, followed by a $1 million renewal fee every five years.
- Requires each commercial brand to be licensed in 10-plus other states or operating in five states and running at least 12 casinos in order to be approved.
- Permits wagering on non-athletic events such as award shows or video game competitions. (I.E. Esports, awards shows, pop culture props, etc.)
- Betting on in-state college teams would be allowed.
- Age requirement would be at least 21 years or older.
Critics have pointed to the fine print in the homelessness initiatives section as a reason to doubt the merit of this bill. Otherwise, it has generated a ton of support, because it makes sports betting licenses and online wagering for patrons so accessible.
Which California Legal Sports Betting Bill is Most Likely to Pass?
Nothing is for sure this far out from the November elections. But if we had to choose, we'd bet on California Solutions for Homelessness and Mental Health Act winning—and in a landslide at that.
Ease of accessibility is everything nowadays. Even if you don't like the idea of corporate sportsbooks inching in on the business of tribal casinos, the latter's own proposal doesn't even allow for online betting at all. That's a major inconvenience at a time when people are married to their phones and laptops.
This isn't to say the corporate sportsbook-backed initiative is perfect. Again: We're skeptical 85 percent of tax revenue received will actually go towards fighting homelessness. But their version at least allows for online sports betting in California, and they've further endeared themselves to fringe supporters by mandating larger sportsbooks like FanDuel and DraftKings partner up with at least one tribal casino once their license is approved.
For that reason, among a few others, we envision California Solutions for Homelessness and Mental Health Act being the measure that gets signed into law by the end of this year.
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