Sports gambling measures are like losing bets in California

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LOS ANGELES — Competitive measures to allow sports gambling in California looked like losing bets on Tuesday after the costliest ballot campaign in US history.

A proposal that would enable online and mobile sports betting failed by nearly a 3-to-1 margin in early returns, and another measure that would allow sports betting at Native American casinos and racetracks lagged about 30 percentage points.

The game industry and Native American tribes have raised nearly $600 million to capture a share of a potential multi-billion dollar market in the nation’s most populous state.

Californians were inundated with a deluge of advertisements — many from proponents of the two measures attacking the competing ones.

The money raised and spent more than doubled the record amount spent in 2020 by Uber, Lyft and other app-based ride and delivery services to prevent drivers from becoming employees eligible for benefits and job protection.

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Still, pre-election polls showed that both ballots would have to face an uphill battle to secure a majority.

More than 30 other states allow sports betting, but California gambling is currently limited to Native American casinos, horse racing tracks, card rooms, and the state lottery.

Proponents of the two initiatives proposed different ways to provide sports gambling, and each touted different benefits that would come to the state if their measure were approved.

Proposition 26 would allow casinos and the state’s four horse racing tracks to offer sports betting in person. The initiative of a coalition of tribes would also allow roulette and dice games in casinos.

A 10% tax would help enforce gambling laws and programs to help pay for gambling addicts.

Proposition 27 would enable online and mobile sports betting for adults. Large gambling companies would have to partner with a tribe engaged in gambling or tribes could enter the market on their own.

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That move was supported by DraftKings, BetMGM, FanDuel — the latter being the official odds provider for The The Bharat Express News — as well as other national sports betting operators and a few tribes.

The initiative was promoted for the funding it promised to help through tax revenues the homeless, the mentally ill and poorer tribes who are not enriched by casinos.

The impartial Legislative Analyst’s Office thought both initiatives would increase state revenue, but it was unclear by how much. Proposition 26 could bring in tens of millions of dollars, while Proposition 27 could bring in hundreds of millions, the office said.

However, that income can be offset if people spend money on sports gambling instead of shopping or buying lottery tickets.

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Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom took no position on either proposal, but said Proposition 27 was “not a homeless initiative.”

The California Republican Party opposed both proposals. State Democrats were against Proposition 27, but were neutral on Proposition 26. Major League Baseball supported Proposition 27.

The No on Prop 26 campaign, funded largely by struggling cardrooms, said the measure would give a handful of wealthy and powerful tribes “a virtual monopoly on all gaming in California.”

The No on 27 committee said the proposal was based on deceptive promises and said the gambling companies behind it “didn’t write it for the homeless, they wrote it for themselves.”

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