By now, you’ve seen at least one Netflix documentary about it. A film about how a sports betting scandal involved altering the outcome of a match so that one person or group profits a hefty sum.
It’s a tale that dates back more than a century ago, when the 1919 Chicago White Sox infamously threw the World Series. And it still hinders sports betting legalization in certain markets today.
So how are the California sports betting ballot initiatives addressing these concerns? Are any safeguards in place to ensure the Golden State isn’t home to the next Boston College point-shaving scandal? Or the next Tim Donaghy situation?
Proposition 26, which would allow in-person betting at California tribal casinos and four horse tracks, and Proposition 27, an initiative that would legalize online sports betting, take two general steps to ensure match integrity.
Regulators and lawmakers get the bulk of the authority
Both competing initiatives are written to give the bulk of the responsibility around match integrity to the government.
Under the “Purposes and Intent” section of the proposal, Prop 26 states that legislators will have the final authority. The initiative says it will allow the legislature to “provide for anti-corruption measures to ensure the integrity of sporting events.”
In other words, the tribes are telling the lawmakers that they are just going to take the bets. It’s up to the state government to police those bets as they see fit. The initiative would entrench this into California law by altering a section of the state Constitution to read:
“The legislature shall authorize by law, statutes necessary to implement this subdivision, which shall also provide for consumer protection and anti-corruption measures to ensure the integrity of sport or athletic events.”
The authors of Prop 27 take similar, but more detailed measures.
The initiative creates a new division of the California Department of Justice to oversee the new betting market. As a result, Prop 27 gives the new regulators the same sort of power that Prop 26 gave a typical California lawmaker.
Under subsection ‘g’ of the intent and purposes section, Prop 27 states:
“Safe and legal online sports betting should be regulated by the California Department of Justice to ensure minors and children are protected, the integrity of sporting events is maintained, and operators are properly licensed. Smart technologies and information-sharing amongst sports leagues, online sports betting operators, and the Department should be employed to protect minors and maintain sports integrity.”
Yes, Prop 27 puts the onus on the DOJ. However, it also mandates communication between regulators, leagues and operators to ensure corruption doesn’t happen.
Specific betting restrictions
There are limitations regarding who can place a bet. And not every sporting event is eligible to wager on.
Prop 26 is much briefer in its restrictions. It only prohibits wagering on any sporting event that involves a California-based college or university.
The conventional wisdom is that young college athletes don’t have the wealth of professionals. As a result, many believe they are much more likely to accept bribes and alter outcomes. And that’s exactly what happened when an organized crime family got a hold of the 1978 Boston College men’s basketball team.
The Boston College scandal is one of the most famous in sports betting history. And is likely one of the reasons for these types of provisions. Regulators in Virginia and New Jersey enacted similar measures. But there is no evidence of corruption in states that allow it.
Prop 27 restricts certain people from making wagers
Once again, the online sports betting initiative takes a more detailed approach to these restrictions.
Firstly, it does not expressly prohibit in-state college betting. On the other hand, it does give a bunch of power to the newly created regulators at the DOJ. They would certainly implement the ban if they felt it was necessary.
Secondly, Prop 27 prohibits certain people from wagering in the online betting market.
Athletes, coaches, referees, owners of sports teams, sports league members and officials of unions representing athletes or referees are prohibited from wagering.
Additionally, high-level employees of a licensed operator would be banned from betting as well. Moreover, anyone living with those employees is unable to wager.
Language in the proposal also requires licensees to conduct background checks on their entire staff. Anyone charged or convicted of corruption or manipulating sporting events is unable to work for the company. Past ties to organized crime will also keep a potential employee out of the industry.
Why does Prop 27 have a more in-depth approach to these safeguards?
Compared to its in-person counterproposal, Prop 27 takes a more detailed approach to these integrity measures.
The different type of betting markets necessitates this approach.
Even though California doesn’t have sports betting, it has all sorts of brick-and-mortar gambling facilities. Californians can already bet on horses, play poker, lottery, and other casino games.
Prop 27 would mark the first availability of legal online sports betting in the Golden State. Therefore, the initiative is more specific in its regulatory framework.