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Cities Team Up to Introduce Initiative to Regulate Sports Wagering

August 12, 2021

GARDENA, CA—A coalition of California cities today submitted language to the California Attorney General’s office for a ballot initiative they are proposing for the November 2022 statewide election. The measure is known as the California Sports Wagering and Consumer Protection Act. 

The initiative would legalize sports wagering in California. Economic surveys estimate illegal sports gambling generates over $10 billion in revenue entirely outside the regulatory system. This illegal enterprise contributes to criminal activity and leaves bettors without legal protection, accruing all its benefits to out-of-state and criminal enterprises while Californians pay the associated costs.

The California Sports Wagering and Consumer Protection Act attacks black-market gaming activity, increases public safety, protects consumers from unscrupulous operators, and raises substantial revenue to fund services like improving COVID-19 relief, homelessness, mental health, and public education.  

“Throughout California, cities like mine are at their breaking point coping with social ills like homelessness, housing shortages, and crime, which have been supercharged by the COVID pandemic’s health and economic damage,” said Gardena Mayor Tasha Cerda. “Let’s bring sports wagering out of the shadows, regulate the industry, and use a portion of the proceeds to benefit all Californians. Right now, the illegal and offshore operators reap those rewards and they’re bleeding us dry.”

“The Bay Area has seen tremendous economic growth, but many of our most vulnerable continue to need a safety net,” said Helen Fisicaro, Vice Mayor of Colma in San Mateo County.  “The revenue we generate from making sports wagering legal, while we’re making it safer for consumers, will ensure that those who are most in need will receive food, housing, and other vital and necessary basic life services.”

The measure guarantees strong oversight of monies collected. Among its watchdog provisions, the measure requires sports wagering operators to perform annual audits and publicly report their findings to state regulators. 

“California residents continue to suffer impacts from the pandemic,” said San Jose City Council Member Raul Peralez. “We built strict accountability into the measure. We need to be able to move forward on what voters have asked for and will demand from us.”

The initiative limits sports wagering to highly regulated entities that are experienced in gaming operations like state & federally recognized tribes with compacts or state-licensed gaming establishments, and professional sports leagues will be allowed to have operations at their facilities. The initiative also replaces unregulated, and untaxed operators with a safe and legal online and mobile sports wagering market.

The initiative also establishes strong enforcement mechanisms to keep sports wagering away from underage Californians and sets aside funding for problem gambling programs.  

“A legal sports wagering market will bring protections for consumers and children,” said Mayor Cerda. “This measure confines sports wagering to highly regulated and safe facilities, requires age verification for digital wagering, and outlaws advertising or marketing of sports wagering to children and young adults.”

State elections law requires the proponents to gather 997,139 valid signatures to qualify the California Sports Wagering and Consumer Protection Act and must do so by April 2022 in order to appear on the November 2022 general election ballot.

A spokesperson from the Commerce Casino told HMG-CN, “We are still reviewing this new initiative. Right now, our focus is to defeat the tribal casino monopoly initiative that is being promoted by wealthy tribal casino operators at the expense of California residents with no revenues for taxpayers or safety precautions to protect California consumers.”