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California Sports Betting Bill Shot Down By Native American Tribes

Across the United States, the legalization of sports betting has been expanding to more areas of the country. However, California will not be joining those states any time soon.

Once again, Indian tribes put an end to any hope of legalized sports betting in The Golden State.

The proposal, which would have amended the state Constitution and allowed sports betting on computers and mobile phones, was pulled off the table in Legislature by co-author Senator Bill Dodd just one day before a very important committee vote.

Legalizing sports betting would have generated millions of dollars in new tax revenue. Unfortunately, the Native American tribes are incredibly powerful and wealthy and are looking to keep sports betting limited to their casinos and a couple of racetracks.

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Dodd compromised to “the power the tribes have gained over the last 20 years,” said Ken Adams, a gaming industry consultant in Reno. “Anybody who wants to get a bill through the Legislature is going to have to face that.”

It is truly disheartening, considering over 20 states in the U.S. have legalized sports betting over the last two years. Now, California sits on the outside looking in, all while there are plenty of illegal outlets for residents to place bets within the state.

“There’s a black market on it,” said Cheryl Schmit of the anti-gambling group Stand Up for California. “It’s much better if it’s out in the public.”

Needed Activity

Considering how badly California needs this extra money, it’s very surprising the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement. After all, this is a state with an overwhelming $54 billion deficit because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It remains important that we lift this widespread practice out of the shadows to make it safer and to generate money for the people of California. I will continue to be engaged in the issue as we work toward 2022,” Dodd said in a statement.

Dodd and his people aren’t alone in wanting to get sports betting legalized.

“To ensure that consumers move away from the illegal market that exists today, any legal sports betting framework must include options for Californians to wager online and on mobile devices,” the group wrote. A separate letter from the NFL called mobile betting “a key component of moving the illegal market into a regulated setting.”

Although the tribes put a halt to sports betting this time around, they just want to keep it to retail locations, says Anthony Roberts, chairman of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation. The lawmakers’ bill would have put the tribes’ longtime rivals – California’s card rooms, on a more secure legal footing to keep operating.

“There’s no way to know who’s using that hand-held device. It could be a child. That’s our biggest worry,” said Roberts.

Differences In Proposals

The original proposals in California would have already allowed sports betting at tribal casinos and certain racetracks. However, one of the bigger differences is that the tribal proposal (aside from no mobile betting, of course) would not allow betting on collegiate games. Not to mention, the tribes also have another item on their agenda.

“They don’t want people to stay home and bet on sports events,” said Rose, a professor emeritus at Whittier College. “They want people to come on in and play the slot machines and table games.”

The California tribes are still looking to get their proposal on the November 2022 ballot. Some concessions will need to be made on their side, where that just hasn’t been the case for a while.

Time will tell, but it’s clear that most people in California want their legalized sports betting – as long it’s on their terms.

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