Betting Ops Spend Big Money to Legalize Wagering in California

Three of America’s biggest online sports betting players – DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM – are spending $100 million to back a newly introduced initiative seeking to legalize wagering in California.

Introduced this past Tuesday, the initiative is called the California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act and calls for tax revenues from sports betting to be directed toward programs dealing with homelessness and mental health problems.

The new act sees three online betting powerhouses enter the 2022 battle over the future of California’s lucrative gambling industry. This newest initiative joins two earlier ones that have secured a spot on the November 2022 ballot.

The first one, promoted by California’s tribes, would legalize athletic gambling at tribal casinos and state-licensed horse racetracks. It would also permit the addition of roulette and dice games at the tribe’s gambling properties around the state.

Last month, a slew of California cities and card room operators launched a joint effort seeking to authorize wagering at tribal casinos as well as at state-licensed card rooms and racetracks, and at NFL, NBA, WNBA, MLB, and MLS venues in the state.

Of all three measures, only the latest one calls for tax revenues to be used to fund homelessness and mental health efforts.

Operator-Backed Initiative Does Not Clash with Tribal One

All three measures have had to find ways to work well with or around each other. The one backed by card rooms contains specific language to resolve the potential that their proposal and the one pitched by tribes both get approved or if one of them is deemed invalid.

The initiative backed by the three online sports betting operators aims to complement the tribes’ proposal. Under the most reason measure 15% of the sports betting tax revenue generated would go to tribal communities, while 85% would go to homelessness and mental health.

In a statement announcing the proposal, BetMGM chief Adam Greenblatt said that California is “one of the most important sports betting markets in the world” and that they are committed to “bringing legal, regulated mobile sports betting to the state.”

More than 20 states have legalized sports betting since the US Supreme Court struck down a long-standing federal ban on the practice in the spring of 2018. However, California’s latest sports betting-focused ballot measure would be the first in the US to create a permanent revenue stream for homelessness and mental health.

Dana Williamson, manager of the new wagering campaign, said Tuesday that “permanent solutions require a permanent funding source” and that their act would “raise hundreds of millions of dollars annually to fight homelessness and expand mental health support in California by allowing regulated entities to offer safe, responsible sports betting.”

Gambling has long been a topic that has caused turmoil in California and previous attempts to legalize sports betting and other forms of gambling have crashed as pleasing all involved parties has proved a challenging task.

However, with the rapid growth of the US sports betting market, all tribes, card rooms, and other stakeholders may finally be ready to make things work and bring the practice to the Golden State.

Source: Sports gambling giants back new online betting initiative in California, Politico, August 31, 2021

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