New Poll Claims Vulnerabilities For Operator Sports Betting Measure

Written By Matthew Kredell on November 19, 2021

A recent poll shows that the mobile sports betting initiative backed by sportsbook operators is vulnerable to the sort of criticisms it will face in a hostile campaign.

The polling also provides a sneak peek into how tribal opponents could sway voters away from the operator measure.

The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians funded the poll. Earlier this month, San Manuel joined three other tribes in filing their own proposed initiative including mobile wagering.

Backed by seven of the biggest sports betting operators across the nation, including BetMGM, DraftKings and FanDuel, the operator initiative began signature gathering this month.

It requires operators to partner with Indian tribes to offer online sports wagering. However, the operators have yet to get support from any of the state’s tribes. Two coalitions representing 43 tribes came out against the measure.

Poll does show support for mobile sports wagering

The poll initially shows that 53% of voters support the operator proposal for mobile sports wagering.

The phrasing notes that the initiative would:

  • Allow online and mobile wagering in California.
  • Out-of-state operators would pay a one-time $100 million licensing fee.
  • Tax online wagering companies at 10%.
  • 85% of those funds would go to programs to address homelessness and expand mental health services.
  • The remaining 15% goes toward Native American tribes that don’t participate in online sports betting.

ALG Research conducted the poll on behalf of San Manuel with assistance from The Mellman Group. ALG Research served as the chief pollster for President Joe Biden and touts a record of 92-10 on ballot initiatives across the country.

They surveyed 1,600 likely 2022 voters over the phone between Sept. 20 and Sept. 26. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish.

A polling memo states that ballot measures with initial polling under 60% are vulnerable.

“Because ballot measures tend to shed support and because those who are undecided on them tend to overwhelmingly vote ‘No,’ it is often said that initial support below 60% indicates a vulnerable ballot measure, and support for the FanDuel/DraftKings measure falls well short of that 60% threshold.”

In September, the operator-led campaign released a poll showing 62% of California voters supported its proposal. That survey was conducted by David Binder Research.

How opponents could attack operator initiative

After the pollsters presented voters with additional information, including criticisms, of the measure, support dropped by 14 points to 39%.

Surveyors presented a criticism that the measure is backed by out-of-state corporations. And that these corporations would take 90% of their profits out of California.

“Over three-quarters of California voters (78%) say that this information raises
serious concerns for them about the measure, including 62% who say it raises
very serious concerns. The intense level of concern generated by this statement
is held by a majority of voters across partisan and racial lines.”

The polling memo adds that California voters view “online sports betting corporations” negatively by a 14-point margin (28% to 42%) even before learning these corporations are based out of state.

In contrast, the polling shows that 80% of voters hold favorable views of California’s Native American tribes.

Expensive fight could lead to measure’s defeat

The seven sportsbooks already funded their initiative campaign with $100 million and promised they could double that figure if needed.

Even before opposition spending, that would put it as one of the most expensive initiative campaigns in state history.

The polling memo notes that, of the eight most expensive California ballot measures, no measure has ever passed when facing an equally funded opposition campaign.

ALG Research and The Mellman Group suggest that tribes could defeat the operator initiative by spending $150 million on an opposition campaign.

“A campaign budget of $150 million opposing this measure, even in a large state like California, would provide enough funding to clearly communicate the downsides of it to voters across the state and likely be enough to defeat the measure, even if its supporters spent $100 million to pass it.”

Although they introduced a competing mobile (and retail) sports betting initiative two weeks ago, San Manuel, Rincon, Graton Rancheria and Wilton Rancheria have yet to indicate if they will follow through on collecting signatures to put the initiative on the ballot. They could opt to focus on an opposition campaign.

Operator campaign response to polling

Operators remain hopeful they can gain support from some tribes to avoid a battle of that magnitude. Representatives of DraftKings and FanDuel spoke about their initiative earlier this week at the National Indian Gaming Association conference.

Shown the polling by PlayCA, Nathan Click, spokesman for the operator campaign, pointed out a discrepancy with a recent letter to fellow tribes sent by the petitioners of the new tribal initiative.

In that letter, they indicated they believe “there is a grave risk” the operator measure could pass.

Click added:

“We are confident in our measure, which would provide hundreds of millions of dollars each year in solutions to homelessness by licensing and permitting safe and responsible online sports betting. Fifteen percent of the tax revenue generated by our measure would go to California Tribal nations, and no operator can access the market without first partnering with a California gaming Tribe. Our own research shows our measure has broad support across the electorate, and we are looking forward to the campaign ahead.”

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Matthew Kredell

Matthew has covered efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling since 2007. His 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. A USC journalism alum, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News and has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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