Just a month from Election Day, all signs are pointing to defeat for the two California sports betting ballot initiatives.
Recent polling suggests both Proposition 26 and Proposition 27 are in danger of being rejected by voters on Nov. 8.
The battle over legalized sports betting in California will leave deep wounds among key players in the state’s gaming industry. California tribal casinos, California cardrooms and online operators spent a record-setting $450 million this election cycle, mostly attacking each other.
Meanwhile, prominent politicians, labor unions and trade groups took sides in the fight.
However, all is not lost.
Efforts are already underway for another sports gambling legalization referendum in 2024. State lawmakers in Sacramento could also get the ball rolling in 2023 and create their own proposal for voter approval.
Here’s where things currently stand and how they got there.
Voters weary from negativity in California sports betting campaigns
A new poll from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies shows little support for either Prop 26 or 27.
According to the results, 31% of respondents would vote in favor of Prop 26, which would permit in-person sports gambling at tribal casinos and select California horse racing venues. Forty-two percent oppose and 27% are undecided.
Prop 27, a measure to legalize online sports betting in California, is garnering just 27% support with 53% saying they will vote against. Those results are in line with previous polling, including internal results from the competing initiative campaigns.
The IGS pollsters concluded, “the sports wagering initiatives are foundering in the face of the opposition advertising campaigns.”
A bad beat for sports betting supporters
The 2022 California sports betting campaign is the single-most expensive ballot initiative in the history of U.S. politics. The dual questions have raised and spent nearly double the next closest race — 2020’s rideshare campaign.
According to state financial reports, nearly $450 million has poured in to both support and oppose Props 26 and 27. Online gambling operators behind Prop 27 shelled out more than $170 million. Tribal casinos backing Prop 26 spent more than $123 million on their proposal while tribes against Prop 27 chipped in another $116 million.
Many California cardrooms would likely be a casualty if Prop 26 passes, since the initiative would also legalize roulette and dice games at Native American casinos. Cardroom operators put up nearly $40 million to defeat Prop 26.
Political line in the sand on CA sports betting
California is projected to be the nation’s largest sports betting market if online and mobile gambling is permitted. Prop 27 would likely generate hundreds of millions annually in taxes, according to PlayCA.
Comparatively, retail wagering would generate only a small percentage of bets, revenue and taxes.
Nonetheless, lawmakers in Sacramento were not swayed by the economic arguments. The state’s top Democrat and Republican politicians came out strongly against the online proposal, with several voicing concerns about Prop 26 as well.
The state political parties chose to either reject or remain neutral on both propositions.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is up for reelection in November after surviving a recall effort in 2021, is opting to stay silent on the subject.