Operators Submit Online Sports Betting Initiative For Signature Verification

Written By Matthew Kredell on May 3, 2022 - Last Updated on August 22, 2022

Make room for a likely second California sports betting initiative on the November ballot.

Sportsbook operators announced Tuesday the submission of 1.6 million signatures for verification, which should be plenty to qualify.

In a press conference announcing the submission, Nathan Click, spokesman for the California sports betting operator campaign, said:

“We’re really confident in our measure. Californians are supporting it. Our door has always been open to any conversation with stakeholders, but really our focus is most exclusively on November and getting this passed. We believe it has the most benefits for the state and provides by far the most revenue for the state to tackle our toughest challenge here in the state — homelessness.”

Tuesday was the deadline for the operators to submit signatures after six months of circulation of their online sports betting initiative. The California Solutions to Homelessness & Mental Health Support Act now heads to local officials to conduct a random sampling.

Qualifying a constitutional amendment for the ballot in California requires 997,139 valid signatures. If the random sample shows more than 110% of the required signatures, the initiative becomes eligible for the ballot.

If the sample shows fewer than 95% of the required signatures, the initiative fails. When between 95% and 110%, officials check each signature. In qualifying for the ballot on a full count, the in-person tribal sports betting initiative submitted 200,000 fewer signatures.

Supporters highlight homelessness funding

During the press conference and in a press release, the operator campaign put together a group of homelessness service practitioners to highlight potential benefits of the proposal.

“Let’s be honest, homelessness is California’s largest crisis,” said Quintin Mecke, director of policy and homelessness strategies at EveryOne Home. “It’s a moral crisis, and we need to think both creatively and long term about how to solve it. This initiative helps do that by generating hundreds of millions of dollars in badly needed revenue, all without raising taxes on residents.”

Miguel Perez, executive director of Kings Tulare Homeless Alliance, broke down regional funding expected for housing and mental health services. Based on a $500 million revenue projection, he noted what each region would get:

  • Los Angeles: $208 million
  • Bay Area: $96 million
  • San Diego: $29 million
  • Central Valley: $26 million
  • Sacramento: $22 million
  • Central Coast: $15 million

“This ballot measure would give cities like Fresno a guaranteed funding source to address homelessness,” said Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer. “To truly solve this critical issue and give those most vulnerable among us the housing, mental health and addiction treatment they need, there must be an ongoing revenue stream. This initiative would do just that.”

Sammie Rayner, chief operating officer of Community Forward SF, pointed out that it might surprise many to learn that there isn’t a permanent statewide funding source to fight homelessness.

“Instead of leaving funding for homelessness and mental health services to the whims of the economy, this initiative will create a stable and reliable funding source for us to tackle these critical public health challenges in our state,” Rayner said.

Details of operator sports betting initiative

In August, seven sportsbook companies announced funding the operator-backed measure with $100 million.

Here’s more details of the initiative:

  • Backed by DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, Bally’s Interactive, Fanatics Betting & Gaming, Penn National Gaming and WynnBET.
  • All online sportsbooks must partner with a federally recognized Indian tribe.
  • $100 million initial license fee for mobile sports betting operators, renewable every five years for $10 million.
  • Tribes can develop their own online platform for a $10 million initial fee. It’s renewable every five years for $1 million.
  • 10% tax rate on gross gaming revenue paid by the operator, or a tribe that develops its own platform.
  • 85% of sports betting tax revenue toward homelessness and mental health support.
  • 15% of mobile sports betting revenue goes toward economic development and assistance to tribal nations that don’t participate in sports wagering.
  • Does not conflict with the in-person tribal initiative. Both could pass, though it’s not what tribes want.

Tribal campaign responds to sports betting operators

The coalition backing the in-person tribal initiative took the opportunity to reiterate its strong opposition to the operator initiative.

The Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming is one of two tribal campaigns already running ads against the operator measure.

“This November ballot has the potential to greatly impact the progress California tribes have made toward self-sufficiency in the last two decades. Time and again, California voters have stood with Indian tribes to support gaming on tribal lands while rejecting initiatives that would hurt tribes,” said Vice-Chairwoman Beth Glasco, Barona Band of Mission Indians. “We’re confident that the voters will once again stand with us in allowing sports wagering on tribal lands, and against a massive expansion of online and mobile gambling controlled by out-of-state gambling corporations.”

The tribes have built an alliance of supporters backing their initiative and opposing the proposal from operators.

“Our support of the Tribal Sports Wagering Act is consistent with our long-standing support for disenfranchised communities to become self-sufficient,” said Rick L. Callender, President of the California Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP. “Accordingly, the CA/HI NAACP has grave concerns about the impacts that a massive expansion of online and mobile gambling would have on problem gambling in California—particularly among youth and communities of color.”

The Protect Tribal Sovereignty & Safe Gaming is backed by the same tribes that submitted their own online sports wagering initiative. There’s still a chance those tribes submit their sports betting measure for verification in the next week or so. However, sources indicate it’s more likely they hold off and submit their signatures by July 11 for the 2024 ballot.

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Matthew Kredell

A fifth-generation Californian, Matthew's reporting on the legalization of sports betting began in 2010 with an article for Playboy Magazine on how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting the expansion of regulated sports betting. After graduating from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News. He has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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