For so long, it looked like sports betting in California would be legalized during the 2022 elections. Multiple polls have shown, over and over again, that residents want it. And voters will have two California sports betting bills to choose from this coming November. Surely one of them would pass.
This optimism only mushroomed when the bankrollers of Prop 26 and Prop 27—the two California sports betting bills—kept investing in their agendas. More than $400 million have been spent on these campaigns combined. As a result, these California sports betting efforts are now the United States' most expensive initiatives of all time. Why would the financiers of Props 26 and 27, respectively, unload so much cash without a guarantee one of their measures would be passed?
Logistically speaking, these sentiments make perfect sense. As it turns out, though, it doesn't matter.
Because as of right now, both 2022 California sports betting bills are expected to fail.
Voters Not Currently Favoring Either California Sports Betting Bill
Though the elections aren't until November, the state of California is obligated to send out county-level ballots early to those who cannot cast their votes in person. Using this sample of voters, a poll was conducted by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies and the Los Angeles Times. And the results were not promising for sports betting enthusiasts.
Below you can see a breakdown of the results for both California sports betting bills, courtesy of CallMatters.org:
"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, was supported by just 31% of likely voters, compared to 42% opposed and 27% undecided, according to the poll. Prop. 26 is backed by a large coalition of Native American tribes.
"Prop. 27, which would allow licensed tribes and large gaming companies to offer online and mobile sports betting outside tribal lands, was supported by just 27% of likely voters, with 53% opposed and 20% undecided. Prop. 27 is backed by online gaming companies, including DraftKings and FanDuel, and three Native American tribes."
This is, in no uncertain terms, a massive development.
Could the California Sports Betting Polls Be Wrong?
Certain experts have pointed out that early-bird and mail-in voters skew older. And older residents are statistically more likely to oppose legal sports betting in California than younger ones.
Still, this is a flawed way of looking at the poll's sample of voters. So much of life takes place remotely now—for all generations. People work from home. They shop online. They have takeout delivered rather than eating in restaurants or picking it up. Everybody has needed to navigate a global pandemic. Tendencies have changed as a result. More and more people are streamlining parts of their lives by limiting how much they must travel for non-leisure activities.
This includes the voting process. Mail-in ballots now appeal to a wide scope of voters. The sample being polled by Berkeley and the Los Angeles Times is most likely more representative of the general California population than not.
And if that's the case, sports betting in California is dead. For now, anyway.
Why Did the California Sports Betting Bills Lose Support
How on earth did we get here? It's a fair question.
Polls conducted earlier this year—also by Berkeley in conjunction with the Los Angeles Times—showed that Californians generally supported some form of sports betting. For so long, the issue wasn't seen as a matter of if. It was instead a matter of which—as in which sports betting initiative would the voters prefer.
This thinking prompted what became a spending spree on advertising and targeted messaging. Prop 26 and Prop 27 promoted themselves to extremes while attempting to discredit one another at the same scale. And it's here that they apparently went wrong.
Voters who participated in the poll indicated that they became aggravated by the constant advertisements and incessant exposure to the sports betting subject. They began to see the matter as a chore—and potentially toxic, since both sides were committed to pointing out hidden downsides that would be imposed by the other.
What's Next for California Sports Betting?
While we hate to be the bearer of bad news, California sports bettors should probably start exploring contingencies. Even if you don't trust the accuracy of these polls, it still makes sense to come up with some Plan Bs. If nothing else, the future of sports betting in California is that fragile.
Are you within driving distance of a neighboring state that offers legal sports betting? Great! If not, we suggest you check our reviews of the top online sportsbooks. Most of the sites from this esteemed list will allow residents in California to set up an account and begin placing bets.
Of course, there's still a chance this concern is all for nothing. One of the California sports betting bills can still pass during the November election. Nothing is official yet.
On the flip side, if the most recent poll is accurate, this will be a huge setback for the sports betting agenda. The next major California elections won't take place until 2024, and there's a chance the state doesn't come together in time to propose adjusted sports betting bills for that ballot. And don't bank on the makers of Prop 26 or Prop 27 swaying voters before the 2022 elections. At this writing, those are now five weeks away.
Those responsible for the California sports betting bills are out of time—and, potentially, out of luck.
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