It seems that nearly every state in the union has one sports betting champion. California’s is Adam Gray (21st District).
The Assemblyman in the most populous state, the very progressive California, first introduced a constitutional amendment for legal sports betting back in 2017, before the federal ban on sports wagering outside Nevada was struck. Then he introduced it again in 2018 after the Supreme Court axed the ban, PASPA.
If the third time is a charm with ACA16, which would “authorize the Legislature by statute to authorize and provide for the regulation of sports wagering,” Gray and senate counterpart Bill Dodd will need to garner the support of two-thirds of the state legislature to put the measure on the November 2020 ballot. And then a majority of voters would have to approve. Gray and Dodd officially put the measure on the table on Thursday.
A golden sports betting market
Home to nearly 40 million people, 10 million more than in Texas, a mature market out West would produce an enormous betting handle that probably would exceed, at least twice over, the combination of the newly “competing” Nevada and New Jersey, which generated a combined $630 million in wagers in the relatively slow month of May.
In each of the dozens of states that have already or are moving toward legalizing sports wagering — Illinois joins the legal column officially on Friday — there presents a unique juggling act between competing stakeholders. California’s is especially complex, with tribal gaming entities offering casino-style games, legal card rooms, horse tracks, the state lottery, and 19 professional sports franchises (NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB), among other parties involved.
“The goal is to get something on the 2020 November ballot,” Gray told ESPN Chalk’s David Purdum on Thursday. “My hope would be that we can find a landing spot for sports wagering, where it could enhance all of those institutions, as well as provide revenue and a regulated market for consumers.”
While each of Gray’s previous two efforts fell short, circumstances obviously have changed as now 15 U.S. jurisdictions have already legalized (with more on the way) and begun reaping the tax and consumer protection benefits.
According to ESPN, a series of joint informational hearings with the senate are on deck for California.
“I think the biggest reason for this is consumer protection. It’s going on now,” political consultant Russell Lowery told the Los Angeles Times in 2018. “Because of the revenue the state could generate from legal activity plus the consumer protections that could be afforded the gambling public, it ought to be regulated.”
Other states similarly situated to California, which will or may require a constitutional amendment to deliver full-fledged legal sports wagering, include Maryland, New York, and Colorado. (New York will have legal betting but on premises only at four commercial casinos in accordance with an earlier law.)
In early May, Colorado’s legislature passed and the Governor signed a measure putting sports betting to a ballot referendum in November, in a framework outlined in HB 1327.
“Right now, there’s already gambling on people’s phones and their computers, it’s called the black market,” said HB 1327 bill sponsor John Cooke. “Let me tell you about my concierge … I have a place down here (in Denver) … he said, ‘I want this bill to pass because right now, I have an offshore account and I’d rather bet here in Colorado.’ It’s not a huge moneymaker, but we’ll make $7-$10 million, so let’s keep that money here.”