On November 14, four tribal chairmen filed a ballot initiative to legalize sports betting at American Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks in California. The ballot initiative has the support of 18 tribal governments.
The announcement comes nine days after voters in Colorado passed Proposition DD, which authorized sports betting in the state. California would be the third state—after Colorado and Arkansas—to vote on sports betting since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law requiring states to prohibit sports betting on May 14, 2018.
The ballot measure would enact a tax of 10 percent on profits derived from sports betting. The state would be required to distribute 15 percent of the revenue to the California Department of Health and local governments for programs related to problem gambling and mental health. The measure would earmark another 15 percent of revenue for enforcing and implementing gambling laws. The remaining 70 percent would be allocated to the General Fund.
Some of California’s most expensive ballot measures addressed tribal gambling authorizations. Based on available reports on Cal-Access, which provides information on campaign finance from 1999 to present, the most expensive ballot measures in California were 2008’s Propositions 94, 95, 96, and 97—four veto referendums against gaming compacts between tribes and the state government. The political action committees (PACs) were the same for each measure; therefore, the combined total of $154.55 million in contributions was raised for or against four ballot measures.
Proponents of the sports betting ballot initiative will need to collect at least 997,139 valid signatures, with a verification deadline of June 25, 2020. However, the process of verifying signatures can take multiple months. The recommended signature submission deadlines are March 3, 2020, for an initiative requiring a full check of signatures and April 21, 2020, for an initiative requiring verification only of a random sample of signatures. Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) is expected to release ballot language for the initiative on January 21, giving the initiative’s proponents between six and 13 weeks to collect around 1 million signatures.