When residents take to the polls in November 2022, many expect California sports betting will be passed in some form. Voters will have two different initiatives from which to choose, and approving either would ensure legal sports betting in California sometime before the year 2024.
Recently, though, experts have begun to wonder: What happens if both measures pass?
This doesn't seem like a problem on the surface. After all, sports betting in California would be legal! Shouldn't this be the only thing that matters?
Not necessarily. See, the two bills being voted on for California legal sports betting are backed not only by separate entities but by completely opposing sides. Because of the fundamental division in ideologies and motives, each gambling initiative accomplishes many different things. And in the event they both wind up passing, it could actually accomplish the opposite of what voters are trying to do by threatening the future of California legal sports betting.
California Sports Betting Bills are Drastically Different
When people hear that California has two different sports betting bills on the November ballot, they're inclined to think they're eerily similar. "How many different forms can legal gambling actually take?" tends to be the line of thought. It's fair to think in those terms. Most consider sports betting a blanketed concept. They don't think about where it's taking place, who's offering it, the licensing process, whether it's on-location or online, etc.
The parties supporting each of California's sports betting bills, however, care very much about these details. And it's reflected in how each proposal is structured.
Native American tribes support the "California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act," which is one of the bills on the ballot. It would permit the four-horse racetracks in the state and tribal casinos to provide sports betting. Additionally, it would enable tribal casinos to add roulette and dice games to their selection of games of chance. Of note for this proposal: It does not allow sports betting online in California.
On the other side of the coin, several sizable bookmakers—including FanDuel, DraftKings, and BetMGM—are supporting the "California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Act" at the same time. It would make sports betting online lawful outside of Native American reservations and permit casino corporations to provide it if they collaborate with a tribe. The initiative has officially been reviewed by election officials after receiving enough legitimate signatures and has since qualified for the 2022 November elections ballot.
Can California REALLY Pass Two Sports Betting Bills?
The short answer here: Yes.
Though most assume only one of the sports betting initiatives can pass, they're not actually going up against one another, per se. Voters are forced to choose one or the other; they can approve both because they're considered separate issues.
There is also precedent for something like this happening in the past. California experienced similar conundrums in 2016, when there were two initiatives apiece relating to the death penalty and plastic bags, according to CaliforniaMatters.org.
If both California sports betting initiatives receive enough votes to pass, there's a chance the results will be sent to court, where a final verdict will be rendered on which bill goes into effect. That type of litigation can take months, if not years, depending on how much the "losing" side protests the final decision.
Is California Sports Betting in Jeopardy?
Here's the good news: If both sports betting bills pass, it doesn't necessarily mean there will need to be prolonged litigation. Really, it depends on which one receives more votes—again, even though these two bills aren't actually going head-to-head on the ballot.
The "California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Act" can coexist with the tribal-supported "California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act." The former merely calls for the legalization of online sports betting in California, and for commercial sportsbooks to have access to online sports betting licenses in the state. That doesn't preclude Native American tribes from offering sports betting at their casinos and racetracks or from joining the online wagering business. In fact, the "California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Act" has specifically tried to gain partisan support by stipulating every commercial online sportsbook must partner with at least one Native American tribe.
Let's assume, then, that both sports betting bills pass, but that the online-operator measure receives more overall votes. In that case, both sports betting initiatives would go into effect, since the online-operator proposal is essentially an expansion of the tribal one.
Problems only start to arise if both sports betting bills pass but it's the "California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act" that receives more overall votes. Tribes would likely contest the approval of the online-operator bill, since it runs in direct contrast with their own measure. This is the scenario in which there is likely to be prolonged litigation.
Californians Shouldn't Worry...For Now
Sports betting enthusiasts shouldn't worry about the future of legal online gambling in California at the moment. Nearly everyone is in agreement that at least one measure will pass, and there's only one outcome, from there, that could tie up the results in court for the next few years.
Of course, if the worst does happen, Californians needn't sit on the sidelines. Many of the operators who appear in our reviews of the top online sportsbooks will already allow you to set up an account and start placing bets.
Basically, regardless of what happens in November, Californians are covered!
Check out this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that will work for all of your sports betting needs: