California State Assemblyman Adam Gray has his eyes wide open. And he wants the state to take advantage of what he’s seeing.
With Super Bowl LII now in the rear-view mirror, Gray (D-Merced) knows that California “lost” big. Not because none of the four Golden State NFL teams failed to get to the big game (ahem, Rams), but because the California government didn’t get its piece of the sports betting pie, which would have been the largest among all 50 states (based on SportsHandle projections) in an environment where sports betting is legal across the U.S.
“The choice is not, should we have sports wagering or not have sports wagering. We do have sports wagering,” Gray told Sacramento TV station KCRA. “You could see tax revenue as high as a $100 million or $200 million a year to the state general fund if we authorize sports wagering.”
Assemblyman Wants to Bring California’s Large Illegal Sports Betting Market Out of the Shadows, Legalize and Regulate It, and Bring and Revenue Into State Coffers
Gray is referring to the illegal sports betting that has been taking place for years in California or by Californians.
“Many people are on online sites now, but their money is not protected,” Gray said. “There’s no regulation, or accountability for those companies, so this will kind of bring it out of the shadows and have a legal regulated marketplace.”
Gray introduced a constitutional amendment in July 2017 to legalize sports betting in California. Like every other state that has an interest in legalizing sports betting, California is in a holding pattern until the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of PASPA — the 1992 federal law effectively banning sports betting outside Nevada.
ACA 18, the proposed constitutional amendment, would need both State Senate and State House approval for inclusion on a future ballot for the general public to vote on. It states:
“… if the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (28 U.S.C. Sec. 3701, et seq.) is amended or repealed to allow sports wagering in California, the Legislature may authorize sports wagering.”
California is already home to multiple types of gambling enterprises, including card rooms, off-track betting parlors and full-blown casinos run by federally recognized Indian tribes on Indian lands. The state has more than 60 tribal-run casinos. The biggest is the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, which features nearly 200,000 square feet of gaming space and more than 3,000 slot machines. Caesars Entertainment Group and Station Casinos are among the national operators running gambling interests on Indian lands in California.
Tribal Casino Groups May or May Not Be On Board With Sports Betting
Of late, there has been something of a disconnect between Tribal casino groups and states in terms of whether legalizing sports gambling would help or hurt business.
The American Gaming Association, which represents both Tribal and commercial interests, has long been in favor of legalizing sports gambling. But according to a recent story by CDC Gaming Reports, tribes in California are among those against legalized sports betting, in large part, it seems, because the tribes fear they will lose business or be unable to compete with new commercial ventures.
But if Gray has his way, the people of California will vote on his amendment and put what he believes will be significant tax revenue into the coffers of the state government and, in turn, schools. It is estimated that up to $40 billion of illegal sports betting occurring across the U.S. is in California.
But like the nearly 20 other states that currently have sports-wagering legislation pending, California and Gray will watch and wait as the Supreme Court weighs its decision in Christie vs. NCAA.
Note: Following the expiration of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s term and the election of Phil Murphy, the official case name now indicates Murphy’s governorship.