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California Likely To Hang Back On Sports Betting Until 2022

If you’re the type of person who likes to put your money where your mouth is every now and then when it comes to making sporting predictions, we have some bad news for you. Although the majority of the rest of the United States of America is basking in the financial glow of legalized sports betting and more states are likely to join them this year, it doesn’t look as if California is going to be one of them. After the last attempt to introduce a sports betting bill failed to gain sufficient traction to get in front of voters in November 2020, the current strategy for those in favor of such a move is to hang back and wait for 2022 instead.

Any realistic prospect of sports betting becoming a reality in California in either 2020 or 2021 died in June last year after an existing proposal fell foul of opposition from tribal casino operators. State senator Bill Dodd has spoken many times of his desire to push the bill through – or at least one very much like it – but there was no way back for the bill in its current form after the June disagreement. It’s understood that tribal casinos were not necessarily opposed to the idea of sports betting but took issue with a clause within the bill that would have allowed card rooms to offer blackjack and poker. They saw that as an infringement on their territory, and so Dodd’s hand was ultimately forced. He withdrew the bill before it went to a public vote.

The current situation with California when it comes to gambling is somewhat at odds with its reputation as a liberal state. Not only is sports betting currently outlawed within the state, but so is every form of online or internet-based gambling. It’s technically illegal to access an online slots website in California. Visit an approved “bricks and mortar” casino, though, and you can play all the online slots you like. Slots like “Chilli Heat” are just as popular in California as they are everywhere else in the world, but they can only be played through those approved casinos. Try to play the same slot from the privacy of your own home, and you run the risk of committing a criminal offense. If California can’t get its act together when it comes to online slots, perhaps it’s not all that surprising that it’s also struggling to put together the necessary pieces to make sports betting a reality.

When the previous bill proposal was shot down in June, there were some who said that it effectively ended any prospect of sports betting coming to the Golden State until 2023. Assemblyman Adam Gray was one of them. He and his fellow proponents of the previous bill were dismissed as scaremongering, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that it won’t be possible to approve sports betting without gaining approval from voters. The next opportunity to put any such proposal in front of voters won’t be until November 2022, and one month is obviously not enough time to facilitate the introduction of sports betting in the event that any future bill is approved. Warning people that the chance to cash in on sports betting would disappear for three years wasn’t scaremongering – it was a prediction of the reality of the current situation.

For as long as this matter drags on, California is missing out on a badly-needed influx of money. The financial implications of having legalized sports betting in California would be huge. Dodd’s will would have called for a 10% tax on the proceeds of all betting activity. In a state of California’s size, with the perceived demand for sports betting within the population so high, that would have resulted in an annual windfall of somewhere in the region of five hundred million dollars. The state can ill afford to be missing out on such a substantial sum – especially in the face of the twelve months we’ve just been through. Sports betting might not have been the ideal solution in some people’s eyes, but it’s one of few “quick fixes” that could have been applied to the situation and started to generate money almost immediately.

Getting some perspective from outside of the state is always useful, so here’s CBNC’s current take on who’s likely to legalize sports betting in 2021. They believe that nineteen states will successfully get bills off the ground this year, some of which won’t have to jump through the hoop of putting it to a statewide referendum. Texas and New York are the biggest names on the list. The idea of Texas legalizing sports betting before California will not sit well with many Californians – especially when Texas is likely to become so much richer by doing so. Toward the end of the article we’ve linked to, reference is made to California waiting it out until 2022. That appears to have been accepted by the outside world as a fact and puts California in the same category as Kentucky.

While the picture might look bleak right now, there’s a potential glimmer of hope. Some tribal casinos believe that their existing rights would allow them to offer sports betting facilities within their premises without the need to seek further approval from voters. The tribal-led group “Coalition To Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering” is currently seeking signatures on a petition to allow them to start offering sports books immediately and currently has more than one million signatures. Not every lawmaker is convinced that the wording of existing laws would allow for such a move to go ahead without voter approval, but the coalition’s lawyers are prepared to argue their case in court. If there’s no other way of getting a bill on the table until the end of November 2022, it’s a route that may be worth considering.

The Supreme Court moved to allow sports betting in the United States of America in 2018. States like New Jersey were already taking full advantage of that new freedom by 2019. California is already two years behind the trend and will be four years behind the trend if a solution isn’t found before the time comes to cast votes in November 2022. That’s not a good look for the state or its leaders, and so hopefully, someone somewhere has an ace up their sleeve to do something about it.