Results of a summer survey investigating support of the latest sports betting initiative in California shows broad — if partisan — support for the “California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act,” which is backed by a group of seven big-time wagering or sports companies.
According to the David Binder Research poll, 62% of voters polled July 14-22 said they would support the initiative, while 25% said they would oppose it. The rest are undecided. In California, an initiative needs only a simple majority to pass.
Operators Bally’s, BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel, Penn National/Barstool Sportsbook, and WynnBET are behind the proposal, as is Fanatics. According to the poll, 76% of Democrats and 59% of Independents would support the proposal. Republicans were the only group in which fewer said they would support (41%) than oppose (44%). Pollsters interviewed 2,400 “likely” November 2022 voters digitally or via telephone.
The proposal is one of three that could land on the November 2022 ballot. The only initiative approved for the ballot to date is one put forth by the state’s tribes that would allow for in-person sports betting at tribal casinos and four horse racetracks around the state. The operators’ initiative would be considered “complementary,” and could pass along with the tribal proposal. A third initiative was put forth by a group of four cities and would allow for in-person and digital wagering at card rooms, horse racetracks, professional sports stadiums, and tribal casinos.
Whenever sports betting is legalized in California, the Dodgers’ new bar beneath the left pavilion will be ready. pic.twitter.com/j0WC5EMfWI
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) April 7, 2021
Application fees could approach $1 billion
Pollsters asked respondents if they would support a measure that would fund programs to manage homelessness and mental health with revenue from digital sports betting. The proposed initiative, which is still under review by the State Attorney General’s Office, would legalize digital wagering, but require platforms to be tethered to tribal casinos.
The proposal sets a 10% tax rate and a $100 million application fee for digital operators. If each of the seven operators backing the measure were to apply for a license, the state would take in $700 million in revenue before the first bet was even placed.
A public-comment period on the operators’ initiative is open until Sept. 30, and the Attorney General’s Office is targeting Nov. 4 to issue a title and summary. At that point, supporters can begin collecting the nearly 1 million signatures needed to get on the ballot. Signatures must be collected and verified by June 2022.
As the biggest state in the nation, California would also be the biggest legal sports betting state in the U.S. should the initiative make the ballot and pass. Advocates note the state should be able to net several hundred million dollars in tax revenue annually from legalized betting that includes statewide digital wagering.
“It is a rare occasion when any initiative seeks to dedicate hundreds of millions of dollars or more for the cause,” Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg told Politico, which initially broke news of the initiative. “Funding mental health programs and fighting homelessness is currently subject to the whims of the economy.”
New column: Who will control sports betting in California? | CalMatters https://t.co/8wbFCtlcOs
— Dan Walters (@DanCALmatters) August 29, 2021
There are an estimated 150,000 homeless people on any given night in California, and the issue is of paramount importance to voters. To wit, 71% of those polled said the state needs to spend more than it is currently spending on reducing homelessness. The poll also revealed that 81% of those polled say the state should increase mental health services, while 68% favor increasing programs to treat addiction.
The key message being put forth by supporters of the initiative is this: “This measure will provide funding to address the homelessness crisis by increasing mental health and addiction services and to ensure that enough shelters are available to move homeless people from the street into long-term permanent housing. Funds can only be spent to increase mental health services and programs to address addiction, as well as providing more shelters to house the homeless. Independent audits and oversight will ensure the money is spent appropriately.”
The proposal calls for 85% of all tax revenue (less expenses) to be directed to managing homelessness, mental health, and addiction services. The remaining 15% will go to the state’s tribes.