California Sports Betting Hearing Receives New Date

Posted on December 4, 2019

The legislators behind a possible constitutional amendment to expand gambling in California have taken action. A sports betting hearing has a new date and location, although many other details are fuzzy.

State legislators indefinitely postponed the meeting that was originally scheduled for last month. The hearing is now set for Jan. 15 in the state’s capital. There are still several unanswered questions, however.

Unknown quantities of the California sports betting hearing

Among the myriad unanswered questions is which industry stakeholders, if any, will attend. Representatives of the following may appear:

  • Cardrooms
  • Tribal casinos
  • Sportsbook operators
  • Professional sports leagues and/or California franchises
  • The state’s lottery
  • Bar/restaurant owners
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom
  • Owners of sports stadiums

What’s certain is that members of both chambers of the Golden State Legislature will hold hearings. Sen. Bill Dodd and Assemblyman Adam Gray both intend to meet with stakeholders in their separate bodies.

Drumming up broad support in both houses is crucial. In order for ACA 16 to become part of the state’s constitution, both chambers have to approve the measure by a two-thirds majority.

Support from other stakeholders like tribal casinos will be vital to acquiring the necessary votes. That’s equally true of the Legislature and the state’s voters.

Because of that, the earlier more parties get involved, the better. Which parties make an appearance on Jan. 15 could be very telling.

Why tribal casino cooperation is pivotal for ACA 16

Tribal casinos filed their own sports betting amendment last month. Whether any representatives of those gaming operators show up on Jan. 15 could point toward the kind of challenges that lie ahead of ACA 16.

If tribal casino reps take part in the hearings in Sacramento, it would indicate that they don’t have a “my way or the highway” approach to California sports betting. Alternatively, if they’re absent, it would signal an intention to fight any competing amendments.

That fight could go beyond lobbying the Legislature against ACA 16. Even if the Legislature does push it through and Gov. Newsom signs the bill, it would still need to pass a voter referendum.

That’s another place where tribal casinos could use their resources; funding an advertising campaign encouraging Californians to vote against the amendment.

Because of that possibility, it’s crucial for the casinos come to the negotiating table as soon as possible. The earlier Dodd and Gray can start working out a compromise, the higher the odds will be of an amendment appearing on the November 2020 ballot.

A possible path forward from Jan. 15, 2020

It’s unclear how many hearings the state House and Senate will hold on ACA 16. They’re likely to continue until either Dodd and Gray feel they have enough support in their chambers to pass the bill, or if it’s clear that negotiations have failed.

In order for an amendment to appear on the ballot in November, the language will likely need to be finalized by late spring 2020. That means Dodd and Gray will be busy after the New Year.

That process begins on Jan. 15. How and when it ends will depend on the speed and success of negotiations.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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