Lawmakers in California have been trying to legalize sports betting for the last few years, but they have not been able to get anywhere. The coronavirus pandemic has changed things for lawmakers, and it now appears that sports betting is back on the table.
The California Senate Committee on Government Organization approved a constitutional amendment bill earlier this week that would allow sports betting throughout the state. This was a major surprise to sports betting experts in the country, as California was not expected to even consider this proposal in 2020.
Committee chair Bill Dodd proposed the bill, ACA 6, and he was a member of the panel that voted on the proposal. The committee approved the bill by a vote of 9-3. All nine Democrats on the committee voted in favor of the bill, while all three Republicans voted against the measure.
The Senate Committee on Appropriations will now get a chance to look over the bill, and they will make the next decision. The hearing is set to take place on June 9, but it is unclear if a vote will be taken on that day.
Assemblyman Adam Gray has also proposed a companion bill that is needed to legalize sports betting in the state. ACA 16 would create a statewide referendum on sports betting, leaving the decision up to the voters in November.
A simple majority vote would legalize sports betting, and then it would be up to the lawmakers to create rules to regulate the industry.
California Facing Huge Deficit
The biggest reason that sports betting is now being considered in California is due to the nearly $54 billion budget deficit facing the state of California. Governor Gavin Newsom has proposed a large number of budget cuts in an effort to shrink the deficit, but lawmakers were not in favor of this plan.
Lawmakers are arguing that sports betting could bring the state hundreds of millions in tax revenue each year, and the measure is gaining support. States throughout the country have legalized sports betting as a way to solve budget issues, and California could be the next state to join that trend.
Newsom’s initial budget proposal was not received well with state lawmakers, and several different measures are being introduced. The budget is due in just a few weeks, and lawmakers are working around the clock to get new bills passed.
Card Rooms Left Out
The proposed bills would only authorize sports betting at tribal casinos and racetracks throughout the state. There are more than 66 card rooms in operation in California, and they would not be allowed to join the industry if these amendments are passed.
Card room executives have been a huge opponent of any sports betting legislation in the past, and they will likely voice their displeasure with the latest bills. They would be losing out on millions of dollars each year, and they have plenty of support from some lawmakers.
Tribal casinos have been working to try and legalize sports betting throughout the year, even going as far as starting a petition. Nearly one million signatures were needed to get their own referendum on the November ballot, and it appeared that they were going to get there.
The coronavirus pandemic shut down the collection of signatures, leaving the group just a few thousand signatures short. The group still has through the end of June to collect the required number of signatures, or they could request that Governor Newsom lower the required amount of names.
Newsom has been hesitant to loosen the requirements, so it’s not likely that this referendum will appear on the ballot.