California tribes, gambling halls bet on legal sports betting


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Here’s a bet Californians can make in the bank: In 2022, we’ll be inundated with conflicting messages about legalizing sports betting.

It will be up to voters to decide not only whether placing bets on professional and college matches should be legal, but also who controls the action. These are the real issues.

Since a 2018 Supreme Court ruling lifted the federal sports betting ban, 33 states have legalized the practice in one form or another. California remains the biggest holdout. Industry analysts predict that retail and online sports betting in the country’s most populous state could generate more than $ 3 billion annually.

As with any income pie of this size, competing interests compete for the most part. They include Native American tribes that operate 66 casinos on tribal lands statewide and private game rooms with 86 pitches in cities like Fresno, Clovis, Visalia and Madera. Equally desperate are national online sports betting operators including DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM.

This being California, the next steps promise to be anything but simple. A 2020 legislative effort died in committee after it drew opposition rich and politically powerful tribes. As a result, we are left with four initiatives vying to reach the November ballot that would legalize sports betting by amending the state constitution.

the measure only to qualify until now, one backed by four of the state’s largest gambling tribes, would allow in-person betting at tribal casinos and four racetracks with 70 percent of tax revenue earmarked for the state’s general fund.

However, this initiative fails to address the most convenient and potentially lucrative segment of the sports betting market: online betting.

Two competing measures, both of which still collect signatures, fill this void in different ways. One, backed by the mayors of San Jose, Colma, Inglewood and Gardena alongside major card room operators, would legalize online and in-person sports betting while also allowing licensed card rooms to offer additional card and tile games currently limited to tribal casinos.

The other, backed by DraftKings, FanDuel and other national operators, would legalize online betting in partnership with tribal casinos that meet certain requirements while earmarking 85% of tax revenues for programs for the homeless. He has got support the Mayor of Fresno Jerry Dyer and the mayors of Sacramento, Oakland and Long Beach.

“This initiative is helping do that by generating hundreds of millions of dollars in much-needed income – without raising taxes for residents,” Dyer said in an October statement. “Here in Fresno and in communities across the state looking for ways to house their most vulnerable residents, this continued flow of income will help us develop the essential long-term solutions needed to end homelessness.”

Four measures of sports betting?

If three weren’t enough, a fourth measure backed by a different set of tribes would grant exclusive in-person and online sports betting rights to federally recognized tribes with land in California.

Do you have it all? Yes all four Finding themselves on the November ballot, a potential but unlikely scenario, voters could not be blamed for raising their arms in confusion and rejecting the whole.

Which would serve us well – while not serving anyone except those who oppose legal sports betting on moral grounds.

In an age when hosts at NFL studios are making choices against the spread and scrolling down the screen is as much for fantasy sports as it is for real scores, are there any of those people left?

Obviously not in large numbers. A recent Sacramento Bee Survey asking if sports gambling should be legal in California generated 573 responses. Seventy percent answered “yes”.

So, rather than dwelling on whether sports betting should be legalized, the most relevant questions start with how and who. How should this all work and who should reap the benefits?

Native American tribes have long exerted their influence on the California gambling industry. Tribal casinos generate about $ 8 billion in annual revenue, a figure comparable to that of casinos in Nevada. Most of the money comes from slot machines, which are not allowed in card rooms or racetracks.

A customer views the FanDuel Sportsbook Daily Sheets inside the Footprint Center on Thursday, September 9, 2021, in Phoenix. Arizona’s first sports betting operations are now open in time for the start of the NFL season, with live betting permitted on college and professional sports. Betting began Thursday online and at the FanDuel Sportsbook in the downtown Phoenix arena where the Phoenix Suns play and in temporary betting windows at Chase Field for the Arizona Diamondbacks. (AP Photo / Matt York) Matt York PA

The tribes protect the playground

No matter how lucrative the game has become for some tribes – the wealth is not almost evenly distributed – the catch is never enough. Besides legalizing sports betting, the two tribal-backed initiatives would also allow their casinos to offer roulette and dice games such as craps.

The latter element, roulette and craps, prompted the card room industry to ask the California Supreme Court to declare tribal support. unconstitutional measure because it contains too many unrelated topics.

Card room operators are also lagging behind Taxpayers Against Special Interest Monopolies, a political action committee which has already brought together more than $ 20 million in opposition to the tribal initiative.

They will need every penny. The competing measure supported by DraftKings and supported by the mayors of four of the eight Biggest cities (including Dyer) has a $ 100 million country kitten.

And who knows how much tribal casinos are willing to spend to protect their territory. In 2008, four tribes in Southern California coughed $ 115 million to prevent card rooms and other gaming interests from reversing their expansion.

With $ 3 billion a year at stake, the fight to legalize sports betting is shaping up to be one of the most widespread and costly initiatives in the history of the state. Place your bets now.

This story was originally published January 7, 2022 7:00 a.m.

Marek Warszawski writes opinion columns on current affairs, politics, sports and quality of life issues for The Fresno Bee, where he has worked since 1998. He is a native of the Bay Area, a graduate of the UC Davis and always played Sierra. He welcomes speeches with readers but suffers neither fools nor trolls.

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