California Legislators Hope to Break Sports Betting Gridlock

California Legislators Hope to Break Sports Betting Gridlock

Betting experts agree that California is a market that could provide incredible income for state lawmakers and gaming companies alike, but first, all sides need to find a bill that voters will approve in a referendum in 2020.

At the heart of the issue is how the betting will be handled as the state’s tribes that operate California’s casinos want a complete monopoly of the industry, while other operators are hoping to get a slice of the action through an expanded and open market.

Two lawmakers are hoping to break the gridlock as they have proposed dueling measures that would bring sports betting to California in differing ways. But their measures will undoubtedly face scrutiny from powerful lobby groups in the state, creating a quagmire that could plunge the chances that sports betting gets through smoothly and onto voters for their approval.

“California is such a singular opportunity that it basically draws interest from every possible corner, and the result [is] getting anything done becomes an incredible challenge,” Chris Grove of Eilers & Krejcik Gaming told the Wall Street Journal.


Eilers & Krejcik Gaming has estimated that a mature sports betting market in California that includes online betting could create around $2.2 billion in annual revenue for operators. Of course, if California leaves out mobile betting they would suffer a similar slow growth fate that other states such as Pennsylvania has worked quickly to rectify.

What are in the Two California Sports Betting Bills?

The first bill co-written by Democratic state Senator Bill Dodd believes that mobile and online betting are at the heart of any solid legislation. He hopes that at an upcoming legislative meeting that lawmakers will consider the fact that more revenue comes from allowing mobile betting and be amenable to its inclusion in his measure.

For the lawmakers to be successful, their proposal must get approval from two-thirds of the Assembly and Senate before it can be offered to voters in November of 2020.

Another betting initiative, supported by the 18 Native American tribes that run casinos in the state would allow their gaming locations to be the sole operators offering sports betting. The monopoly over sports betting could potentially add millions in revenue to the tribes’ bottom line.

To get the initiative on the ballot, the tribes will have to collect close to one million signatures from registered California voters. Once the measure hits the ballot, the coalition of the 18 tribes will spend tens of millions of dollars in advertising and promotional materials to get the word out to voters.

“Tribal leaders believe that this measure represents a viable path toward voter approval of sports betting,” said Jacob Mejia, VP of public affairs for the Pechanga tribe and spokesman for the 18 tribes and their sports-betting coalition.


The tribal leaders have indicated that mobile betting will not be a part of their initiative, suggesting that their research says online wagering won’t gain the support of voters. Coming from the tribes, who hope to gain total control of on-site wagering at their casinos, the reasoning for leaving mobile betting off the measure is dubious at best.

The next legislative meeting is scheduled for January 8th and lawmakers should provide a better timeline for the next step in getting the lawmakers’ bill onto the ballot for November 2020.

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