Don’t Let Gambling Interests Shape California Sports Betting


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title=sonline gambling industry, led by DraftKings and FanDuel, is eager to enter California for years.” title=”People place bets on sportsbooks at Philadelphia’s SugarHouse Casino on launch day in 2018. Legalized sportsbooks have swept the country and the online gambling industry, led by DraftKings and FanDuel, is eager to enter California for years.” loading=”lazy”/>

People place bets on sportsbooks at Philadelphia’s SugarHouse Casino on launch day in 2018. Legalized sportsbooks have swept the country and the online gambling industry, led by DraftKings and FanDuel, is eager to enter California for years.

Requester from Philadelphia via TNS

Legal sports betting in California is inevitable, but lawmakers have completely dropped the ball. So voters in the state must try to make sense of two competing initiatives drafted by the same special interests ready to reap the greatest rewards.

As proponents and opponents of Propositions 26 and 27 lead the costliest initiative campaign in the history of state elections, voters should be aware of this blatant attempt at governance by profit margin and reject both in their November ballots.

Instead, let’s get Governor Gavin Newsom and state politicians to do their job and address sports betting through the legislative process. The goal should be to create the fairest system possible. Rather than allowing gaming corporations and Native American tribes to rewrite the State Constitution as they see fit while the people we elected to protect us from such shenanigans watch obediently from the outside.

If you are looking for a moral stance against gambling, this is not the place. Adults should be able to place a legal bet on whether their favorite team covers the point spread – regardless of the very real risks addiction – and in 2022 they should be able to do it on their phone.

This sentiment is shared by a growing majority. A recent Washington Post-University of Maryland poll of 1,500 adults found that 66% approve of legalizing professional sports betting. That’s up from 55% approval in 2017 – the year before the Supreme Court overturned a law that limited sports betting primarily in Nevada.

Thirty-six states have legalized sports betting in at least one form since the Supreme Court ruling, leaving California as the largest untapped reservoir. If both proposals are accepted (which could create its own set of legal issues), total bets are expected to eclipse $3 billion per year.

With so much action in sight, it’s no wonder that parties interested in Proposition 26 and Proposition 27 spent more than $360 million on advertising to break previous records. With almost two months until election day.

Between the NBA Finals in June and the start of the football season in September, I don’t watch a lot of TV sports. That’s especially true in years (like this) when the San Francisco Giants are both ugly and excruciatingly boring.

As I sat on the couch on a recent Sunday, I was unprepared for the onslaught of deceptive TV commercials paid for by national game companies eager to make their way into California, as well as Native American tribes anxious to maintain their hold on the legal game of the state.

Gambling won’t solve the homeless crisis

Proposition 27 would legalize mobile and online sports betting outside of tribal lands and create a new division in the state Department of Justice to oversee such activities. Its advertising campaign is funded by seven gaming companies (DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM are the best known) and led by three small tribes who have been largely excluded from the billions generated by Indian casinos.

Backed by more than 30 tribes that operate casinos, including Table Mountain Rancheria, Proposition 26 would legalize sports betting, but only at tribal casinos and the state’s four remaining private racetracks. The measure also allows tribal casinos to start offering roulette and dice games such as craps.

While reasonable on their face, both initiatives are laden with language and stipulations that should make them distasteful to knowledgeable voters.

In the pink PR campaign funded by the online gaming companies, Proposition 27 is positioned to be as much about fighting homelessness as it is about parlays and prop betting. The official campaign website ( barely mentions gambling.

Advertisements for dueling sports betting initiatives – Propositions 26 and 27 – in the November 8 ballot are saturating the airwaves. Sports betting campaigns via YouTube

Don’t be fooled. Proposition 27 is not going to solve the state’s homeless crisis. In all likelihood, he won’t make much of a dent. Not when you consider that state legislators, over the past two years of budget surpluses, have spent $13.5 billion on providing shelters and services for the homeless.

Proposition 27 is expected to bring in $500 million a year in tax revenue, according to the state’s legislative analyst. But this amount is not guaranteed, and the first cut goes to regulating the newly created industry.

Once tribes not involved in online gaming have secured their 15% share of the remaining revenue, the rest is spent on homelessness and homelessness only. It seems too prescriptive when California has so many other issues on its plate.

It’s almost as if the authors of Proposition 27 chose homelessness as their cause celebre because they knew it would strike a chord the hardest. Cynical politics at its finest.

Native American Tribal Sympathy Scheme

Pulling on the nerves also seems to be the strategy employed by Proponents of Proposition 26, almost all of whom are strongly opposed to Proposition 27.

The sympathy ploy goes something like this: We’ve treated the Native American tribes pretty horribly, which giving them control over California’s gambling industry helps make up for in part. But now that sports betting is legal, foreign companies like FanDuel and DraftKings want to jump in and help themselves to a slice of our pie. Don’t let them.

A major weakness of Proposition 26 is that it completely ignores mobile and online betting. Adults wishing to place a sports bet should not have to travel to an Indian casino to do so. Most of them won’t care. Instead, they will continue to bet using offshore websites that have no public interest.

Also to its detriment, Proposition 26 contains fine print designed to give tribal casinos a legal leg up in their constant battle with cardroom operators over who has the right to offer certain types of games. It’s not fair either.

As stated earlier, sports betting is a must. California will eventually join dozens of other states that have legalized such practices. But in our zeal to do so, we should embrace a system that is fair to all parties instead of one that so blatantly picks winners and losers. Similar to what New York and Massachusetts have done.

Some issues are too complex to be dealt with at the ballot box or in misleading 30-second television commercials. Vote no on Propositions 26 and 27, then implore Newsom and our legislators to take the bat off their shoulders.

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 Bay Area native, a graduate of UC Davis and a lifelong Sierra romp. He welcomes the talk with readers but does not suffer from fools or trolls.

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