California sports gambling metrics look like losing bets

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The gambling industry and Native American tribes have raised hundreds of millions of dollars to capture a potential billion-dollar market in the nation’s most populous state, flooding Californians with an explosion of advertisements.

Money raised and spent more than doubled record amount spent in 2020 by Uber, Lyft and other app-based transportation and delivery services to prevent drivers from becoming eligible employees for benefits and job protection.

Still, pre-election polls showed both election measures faced an uphill battle to win a majority.

After Labor Day, campaigns supporting both initiatives largely folded their cards. Spending has fallen and executives from major betting companies have signaled that legalization will likely have to wait until 2024.

More than 30 other states allow sports bettingbut gambling in California is currently limited to Native American casinos, racetracks, arcades, and the state lottery.

Despite the avalanche of spending, voters never seemed invested in the fate of sports betting. The measures won little support in public polls throughout the campaign, and a Public Policy Institute of California October Survey found that only 21% of likely voters thought the outcome of the vote on Proposition 26 was “very important,” with 31% of likely voters saying the same about Proposition 27.

Now the debate will likely return to the Legislative Assembly, where the same competing forces have negated potential compromises on the issue of sports betting over the past two years.

The initiative was being promoted for the funding it promised to channel through tax revenue to help the homeless, those with mental illness and tribes who have not been enriched by casinos.

The Office of the Nonpartisan Legislative Analyst found that both initiatives would increase state revenue, but it was unclear by how much. Proposition 26 could fetch tens of millions of dollars while Proposition 27 could fetch hundreds of millions, the bureau said.

However, these revenues could be offset if people spend money on sports betting instead of shopping or buying lottery tickets.

Governor Gavin Newsom did not take a position on either proposal, but said Proposition 27 was “not a homeless initiative.”

The California Republican Party opposes both proposals. State Democrats oppose Proposition 27, but are neutral on Proposition 26. Major League Baseball supports Proposition 27.

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