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With the 2020 election only a year away, legislators in California are eyeing the ballot as a deadline for approval for sports betting in the state from voters. But before the measure reaches the ballot it must get through the California legislative process first.
This endgame is what state Senator Bill Dodd and state Assemblyman Adam Gray envision as they attempt to get a bill passed and in the hands of voters next November.
“We want to get an initiative on the ballot that the voters can understand, that’s easy to understand and perhaps in the process maybe bring all the gambling institutions — card rooms, horse racing, tribal casinos — all together,” Dodd said.
Early estimates put the tax revenue lost each year around $200 million, with many betting dollars going next door to Nevada, something legislators would like to stop.
“It would bring tax revenue back into communities. This is tax revenue that is going to Nevada or being lost because of illegal gaming,” CGA Executive Director Joe Patterson said. “So, there are huge benefits to legalizing it and regulating it here for local communities that already offer gaming opportunities.”
In addition to lost revenue to Nevada, Dodd cites studies that estimate that California is the home to over $10 billion in illegal bets each year and believes that his and Gray’s bill could significantly curb that figure while putting more in the state’s tax coffers.
“People are gonna do it no matter what,” Sen. Dodd told local Sacramento station FOX40. “They’re already doing it.”
Dodd and Gray’s constitutional amendment attempts to sort out a complicated process that will undoubtedly involve the state’s 68 tribal casinos and 66 card rooms. Tribal leaders have already voiced their opposition to expanding operators throughout the state, hoping instead to be the sole provider of betting services in the state.
Tribal casinos have been at odds with card rooms and state regulators as the state appears to be on the verge of expanding their offerings to sports betting. Steve Stallings, the chairman of the California Indian Gaming Association recently told the San Francisco Chronicle is waiting on the bill before making a formal protest to the legislation.
“The tribes understand the industry and are positive about growth and expansion, but not an expansion that would jeopardize tribes’ exclusivity (to offer casino games) or things we do now,” Stallings said. “We told the legislators we will discuss it, but we want details on tax rates, who would be eligible, how it would operate.”
GCA Exec. Director Patterson feels that once the Tribal Association seeing the finished legislation they can proceed with hammering out a final proposal for voters.
“Once the stakeholders come together and we can start those discussions then really we’ll be able to analyze the details on the specific proposal that ends up coming forward,” Patterson said.
For Asm. Gray and Sen. Dodd, the legislation must be approved by the middle of June to reach the ballot in November of 2020. Before that happens, the bill must get out of the senate and its numerous committees as well as pass with a two-thirds majority in the state assembly.
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