- The Washington Times
Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Voters in California rejected two ballot measures Tuesday that would have legalized sports betting in the state. 

Sports gambling is permitted in 36 states plus the District of Columbia, but the nation’s most populous state will remain without legal sports wagering. The Associated Press declared early Wednesday morning that both ballot measures failed by overwhelming margins.

The initiatives failed despite nearly $600 million being spent trying to convince Californians to usher in sports betting in a market that is projected to be worth over $1 billion, according to The Associated Press. But the flood of advertisements didn’t seem to make a difference, as neither measure came close to winning. 

The money spent on the ballot measures during the election cycle was more than double the record amount shelled out in 2020 by Uber, Lyft and other rideshare and delivery apps in their successful campaign to keep their drivers as contractors and deny them employee benefits and job protection. 

With the failed measures, gambling in California will remain limited to American Indian casinos, horse tracks, card rooms and the state lottery.

The first ballot measure, Proposition 26, was backed by American Indian tribes and would have allowed tribal casinos and California’s top four horse tracks to offer in-person sports betting. Proponents of the measure said a 10% tax on sports gambling would help fund programs to provide services for problem gamblers and enforce existing betting laws. 

With a little under half the vote tallied as of Wednesday afternoon, voters rejected the initiative by about 40 points. 

“Prop. 26 was not just a sports betting measure but a massive expansion of gambling by five wealthy tribes that included a poison pill aimed at taking market share away from highly regulated card rooms that provide millions of dollars in tax revenue to communities and tens of thousands of jobs,” the No on Proposition 26 Campaign said in a statement.

The second one, Proposition 27, was backed by the gaming industry — including popular sportsbooks DraftKings, BetMGM and FanDuel — and would have allowed online sports betting, either through the tribes themselves or in partnership with the major platforms. Proponents of the measure said the tax revenue from sports gambling would help the homeless in California. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who coasted to reelection Tuesday night, didn’t stake a position on either measure, but did say that Proposition 27 was “not a homeless initiative.” 

Only 16% of Californians voted for the measure as of Wednesday afternoon. 

Only one of California’s 58 counties — Tuolumne County, southeast of Sacramento — supported either of the measures at the polls, as of the votes counted by Wednesday afternoon. 

“Our internal polling has been clear and consistent for years: California voters do not support online sports betting,” Anthony Roberts, tribal chairman of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, told the Associated Press. “Voters have real and significant concerns about turning every cellphone, laptop and tablet into a gambling device, the resulting addiction and exposure to children.”

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, according to The Associated Press, said Proposition 26 could have brought in tens of millions of dollars per year in state revenue, while Proposition 27 could have generated hundreds of millions. 

Neither major political party in California supported the initiatives. Major League Baseball had backed Proposition 27. 

While most states have legalized sports gambling through the legislative process, some have taken to the polls to let voters decide, including Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, Nebraska and South Dakota.

Maryland voters legalized sports wagering in the state in 2020, with in-person operations now up and running and online options expected to launch around Thanksgiving.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at jmeyer@washingtontimes.com.

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