Propositions 26 and 27 appear to compete for Californians’ votes this November. Proponents of each measure give that illusion, urging voters to choose one over the other.
But a significant segment of the population will be voting “no” on both sports betting initiatives.
Most Native American tribes support Prop 26, which would allow California sports betting only at tribal casinos and horse racing venues. Major sportsbooks back Prop 27, which would open up California to online sports betting. Early polling showed both measures failing in November, and opposition looks to be growing.
Many people oppose Props 26 and 27 for reasons beyond personal views against gambling. They include advertising overload, a lack of substance in the advertising and a belief that better alternatives exist in bringing sports betting to The Golden State.
Advertising overload with not much substance
Unsurprisingly, Props 26 and 27 have long overtaken the top spot for most advertising money spent on California ballot measures. More than $420 million has gone toward ads as of mid-September. Most of the messaging focuses on appealing to emotions rather than the benefits of regulated sports betting.
The tribal-backed Prop 26 claims that tribes’ rights to casino gaming in the state are at risk, and thus, their financial well-being. It also claims that out-of-state corporations are coming for Californians’ money – money they say should stay in California.
Meanwhile, we all know Prop 27’s primary claim is to solve California’s homelessness crisis and address mental health and addiction. Those are tall tasks. Especially when you consider the state has already spent billions fighting homelessness and the problem just gets worse.
Are these talking points simply distractions from the propositions’ shortcomings?
Who are these measures intended to help?
Each campaign’s true motives become more apparent as Election Day nears. Both propositions look to be written with a “me-first” mentality, and “me” is not you or me.
The special interests backing the respective initiatives will be the main ones to benefit, and some local newspapers are urging voters to reject both measures. They claim that state lawmakers have had four years to get things right and have failed to do so.
Instead, gaming companies and tribes have written the legislation for them. Because of this, Prop 26 intentionally excludes mobile sports betting since it could open the door to out-of-state sportsbooks entering “their” market.
Proposition 26 also includes a gray-area scenario that allows tribal casinos to sue California cardrooms. Tribes could claim the cardrooms are illegally operating because all gaming in the state belongs to tribes only. When fact-checked, The Sacramento Bee determined this could put many cardrooms out of business across the state.
Proposition 27 has its own flaws. We’ve already identified that it most likely won’t solve homelessness. The tribes claim that 90% of Prop 27 revenue will leave the state via corporations such as FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM.
What is the solution?
Both measures focus on defeating the other, and chances are both sides succeed in causing the other to fail. In other words, both measures will likely fail.
While that might hurt in the short term, it would give lawmakers more time to create a better system. They must create a structure that allows entities to compete on a level playing field while creating a sustainable and substantial revenue stream for California.
After all, California is the largest untapped gambling market in the country. The consequences of squandering such an opportunity would affect those that could benefit the most, while allowing a chosen few to reap the rewards.
Sports betting will eventually be legal in California. When that day comes, it will hopefully be structured equitably, supporting competition and positively impacting communities statewide.