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Californians vote against legalising sports betting

Two propositions proposing the legalisation of sports gambling were both outvoted in huge numbers.

10 November 2022 Josh Sim
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  • Prop 27 is the most expensive ballot measure in state history
  • Gambling firms eye 2024 ballot initiative if they fail to reach deal with Native American tribes

Californian voters have rejected two propositions that aimed to legalise sports betting in the state.

Currently, state law limits gambling to within Native American casinos, at horse tracks, in card rooms and through the state lottery. This contrasts with 33 other US states which permit some form of legal sports betting.

State Proposition 27 proposed permitting online and mobile sports betting for adults and was heavily backed by major gambling companies including DraftKings, BetMGM and FanDuel. It also had the support of some Native American tribes and other sports betting operators.

The ‘Yes on 27’ campaign, also backed by Major League Baseball (MLB), raised about US$170 million to convince voters and campaigned heavily on promises the legalisation would allow for homeless people to be helped through huge tax revenues.

However, the proposal faced strong opposition from over 50 other local Native American tribes, which rely on casinos for revenue and employment. The ‘No on 27’ campaign raised US$238 million in funds, making this ballot measure the most expensive in state history.

The ‘No’ campaign ultimately succeeded, with an overwhelming 83.4 per cent of Californians voting to reject the proposition.

Dan Little, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians’ chief intergovernmental affairs officer, told the Financial Times (FT): “These out-of-state corporations have gotten arrogant. They outplayed their hand – they could have worked with us and they didn’t – and they lost miserably.”

For gambling companies, the outcome was a huge blow. Eilers & Krejcik Gaming estimates the potential sports betting market in California to be worth almost US$3 billion in annual revenues. It is thought betting firms will turn its attention towards another ballot initiative in 2024 if they are unable to reach an agreement with the tribes.

A spokesperson for the ‘Yes on 27’ campaign said: “Our coalition knew passing Prop 27 would be an uphill climb, but we remain committed to California. This campaign has underscored our coalition’s resolve to seeing California follow more than half the country in legalising safe and responsible online sports betting.”

Meanwhile, Proposition 26 would have allowed casinos and the state’s major horse tracks to offer sports betting in person but this also failed to receive popular support and was rejected by 70.4 per cent of voters.

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