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Will California Get Legalized Sports Betting In 2022?

California is the most populated state in the US. Unfortunately, they’re one of 18 states in the United States without legalized sports betting. Will that be changing in 2022? The battle to get legalized sports betting in California is heating up.

Is Sports Betting Legal In California?

No, there are no legal options for sports betting in California. However, there are four different initiatives that could hit the November 2022 ballots in California. If they can gain the necessary verified signatures, they’ll be on the ballot.

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The 2022 General Election

The 2022 general election ballot is where residents of California will determine the future of legalized sports. Right now, Californians may see up to four initiatives to legalize sports betting on the 2022 general election ballot.

Two of those have gained the necessary signatures to appear on the 2022 general election ballot. One of them is a tribal-led initiative, which would legalize retail sports betting at tribal casinos and state racetracks in California. Additionally, it would legalize dice games and roulette at tribal casinos, if approved.

Are Tribes Controlling California Sports Betting?

While tribes in California don’t completely control legalized sports betting initiatives, they definitely play a big part. There is a second initiative that would legalize retail sports betting at tribal casinos and allow tribes to offer online sports betting. The tribe petition was approved by California Secretary of State Shirley Weber in January. Moreover, the tribal coalition is working to gather enough verified signatures to get it placed on the Nov. 2022 ballot.

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Online Sportsbook Initiative

California tribes want to keep California sports betting as a monopoly. However, there are several large online sportsbook companies that want in on the action. This initiative is backed by BetMGM, DraftKings, WynnBET, FanDuel, Fanatics Betting and Gaming, Penn National Gaming/Barstool Sportsbook, and Bally’s Interactive. Moreover, it would legalize online sports betting for sportsbooks that have partnered with a California tribe.

This initiative is part of the “California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act,” which was officially filed with California’s state attorney general’s office in September 2021. The companies listed above combined for a $100 million contribution for this initiative. Furthermore, it is currently in the process of collecting enough verified signatures to place it on the Nov. 2022 ballot.

If it gets enough signatures, makes the ballot, and is approved, this initiative would allocate 85% of revenue to the California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Account. It can help combat homelessness and mental health issues in the state of California. Furthermore, the remaining 15% would be allocated to the Tribal Economic Development Account. This would provide economic development and assistance to California tribes that are not participating in the online sports betting program.

The initiative campaign announced in January had crossed the 25% threshold of verified signatures needed to appear on the ballot.

Furthermore, representatives for this initiative have stated their initiative does not need to run in opposition to the tribes’ initiative to legalize retail sports betting at tribal casinos. Instead, they said both can be approved by California voters in November.

Tribal Representatives Against This Initiative

Representatives from the online sportsbook initiative state Californians could support and approve both initiatives. Unfortunately, it looks like tribal representatives are opposed to the online sportsbook initiative. They want to keep the future of retail and online sports betting in the hands of California tribes.

To do that, three California tribal governments announced the formation of the “Californians for Tribal Sovereignty and Safe Gaming” committee. This committee would mount a campaign against the BetMGM and Barstool-backed online sports betting initiative.

Furthermore, the committee announced an initial campaign budget of $100 million in an effort to oppose the online sportsbook operator initiative.

In a press release from the committee, Roger Salazar, a spokesperson for the committee, said, “In 2000, Californians voted to give sovereign Indian nations the exclusive right to operate gaming in California. The online sports betting measure sponsored by out-of-state corporations violates that promise of sovereignty, which has worked exceptionally well now for over two decades to the benefit for the tribes and California.”

The Fourth Initiative

Finally, the fourth initiative, which is backed by several California mayors, will allow state card rooms and tribal casinos to offer both retail and online sports betting. Additionally, it will legalize new card and tile games for both types of facilities.

When Will Sports Betting Launch In California?

It largely depends on how the 2022 general election goes. The two pending initiatives need 997,139 verified signatures from voters to appear on the 2022 ballot. Fortunately, two of the four initiatives have crossed the required threshold.

While these initiatives will make the ballot in November 2022, the likelihood of online sports betting going live in California in 2022 is not great. Unfortunately, if the initiatives that allow for online sports betting are approved by voters, they likely won’t go live until 2023.

Furthermore, there’s a lot more work that needs to go into it. There will likely be months of negotiating with lawmakers, regulators, and other state officials in an effort to honor the will of the Californians. Additionally, we will need to see regulators create rules for the industry and issue licenses. Conversely, operators will need to do some prep work on the technology and logistics to get ready for launch.

Typically, it’s not normal for the gap between legalization and launch to be smaller than six months. For that to happen, most of the stakeholders get the time to prepare in advance. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in California. Everything is still in flux, so they can’t adequately prepare.

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