On May 2, Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support announced that proponents had submitted 1.6 million signatures to local election officials for verification to place an initiative that would legalize online sports betting in the state on the ballot. Sports betting in any form is currently illegal in California.
The initiative was filed on Aug. 31, 2021, and signatures were due on May 3, 2022. Since the measure is a combined initiated constitutional amendment and state statute, the required number of signatures is 997,139, or 8% of the votes cast in the 2018 gubernatorial election. The deadline for signature verification is June 30.
The initiative would authorize a gaming tribe, an online sports betting platform with an operating agreement with a gaming tribe, or a qualified gaming company with a market access agreement with a gaming tribe to operate online sports betting for individuals 21 years of age or older in the state but outside of Indian lands. Qualified gaming companies would be required to be licensed to offer online sports betting in at least 10 states or territories or licensed to offer online sports betting in at least five states or territories and operate at least 12 casinos. After deducting regulatory costs, 85% of the revenue from licensing fees, renewals, and sports betting taxes would be allocated to the California Solutions to Homelessness to the Mental Health Support Account and 15% to the Tribal Economic Development Account. The amendment would take effect on January 1, 2023.
The initiative also states that it is not in conflict with an initiative, which would legalize sports betting at American Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks, that has already qualified for the November ballot. However, the initiative would be in conflict with the other potential online sports betting initiative sponsored by the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. If both online sports betting initiatives qualify for the ballot, the initiative with the highest majority approval rate would take effect.
Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support reported over $100 million in contributions according to its latest campaign finance filings. The top donors to the committee included BetMGM LLC ($16.7 million), FanDuel Sportsbook ($16.7 million), and DraftKings ($16.7 million).
There are two PACs registered in opposition to the initiative—Californians for Tribal Sovereignty and Safe Gaming and Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming. The committees reported a combined total of $65.6 million in contributions. The top donors included the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians ($25 million), the Rincon Band of Luiseno Mission Indians of the Rincon Reservation California ($10 million), and the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation ($7.1 million).
The initiative has received support from the mayors of Fresno, Long Beach, Oakland, and Sacramento. Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia (D) said, “I’m joining my fellow mayors in endorsing this important initiative because this is an all-hands on deck moment in our fight against homelessness. To solve California’s homelessness crisis over the long term, we need sustainable sources of funding to house those experiencing homelessness and provide them the medical and mental health services they need. That’s what this measure provides.”
Apart from opposition from the state’s Indian tribes, the initiative is opposed by smaller sports betting companies that do not meet the requirements to operate within the state under the proposed measure. Doug Terfher, vice president of marketing for MaximBet, said, “We want (California) to be as open and available to as many operators as possible with where we are in our growth journey.”
Sports betting is legal and operational in 30 states and D.C. Since the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Murphy v. NCAA that overturned the federal ban on sports betting, five states have legalized sports betting through a ballot measure with an average approval rate of 58.99%.