California Gambling Amendments: What’s on the Table?

By Simon Taylor
Tachi Palace Casino California
Tachi Palace Casino, California

We all know that getting any gambling law changes ratified in the USA is like pulling teeth, and nowhere typifies that view better than the state of California. 

The Golden State requires changes to its constitution to ratify changes. And that means getting it on to the ballot paper so that the public can decide. 

Just getting on the ballot paper can be a challenging enough experience. 

Currently, there have been four proposals put forward for the 2022 November ballots. 

Before we look at the four bids, if you want to know how difficult it is getting law changes ratified in California, then just take a quick look at history.

Only three times in the history of California have voters ratified constitutional amendments concerning gambling. 

All of those choices were binary. For example, in 1984, the voters were basically just asked, do you want a lottery? Not quite put in those simple terms but along those lines. 

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The four Gambling Amendments proposed in California

The four that are in the pipelines this year have layer upon layer of issues included. They are not single-issue ballot questions. 

So even if a voter may agree with legalizing some aspects of gambling, he/she may choose to vote it down in November, as there are too many other initiatives attached to the legislation.

So why put them in the constitutional amendments initiatives in the first place? 

The short answer is proponents of these amendments know how hard it is to get anything on the ballot paper. So when they do, they try and get as much on there as possible.

There is also a sort of casino turf-war currently taking place. And it’s a fight being fought on many different fronts.

Backers of the four initiatives are fighting amongst themselves. And they are also in a battle with the owners of the tribal land-based casinos, who are fighting to stop the new initiatives that would see the tribal Indian’s monopoly end.  

This all involves petitions, lobbying, claims, counterclaims, legal hearings, injunctions, etc, etc. It is an absolute minefield.

But the fact so many are prepared to tread this minefield, and also pump hundreds of millions of dollars into backing these initiatives, shows just how much money can possibly be made from having an amendment ratified this November.  

What are the four proposed amendments?

  1. California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act
  2. California Solutions to Homelessness, Public Education Funding, Affordable Housing and Reduction of Problem Gambling Act
  3. The California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act
  4. The Age-Verified Tribal Online and In-Person Sports Wagering & Homelessness Solutions Act

Looking at the first proposal, the California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act, has already qualified for the ballot paper.

This act is in favor of the tribal casinos and a few horse tracks. It is to allow sports betting, roulette and craps to be played at the casinos.

The second act on the list, the California Solutions to Homelessness, Public Education Funding, Affordable Housing and Reduction of Problem Gambling Act, is in favor of the state’s card rooms. 

The card rooms felt they were being left out of the California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act, so initiated their own action.

Under the terms of this act, all state gaming entities could participate in sports betting. The taxes generated would go towards the state’s homeless, and to help ease the affordable housing problems.  

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The introduction of Online Sports Betting to the proposed Amendments

The third act on our list is The California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act. 

The proposal was submitted by Sacramento attorney Kurt Oneto, and includes online sports betting. Something not covered in the two previous proposals. 

The proposal is backed by nine companies who have put together a $100 million war chest to fund the signature-gathering process. The nine companies involved are also prepared to be in a partnership with Californian tribes that meet certain criteria.

Whether the criteria would satisfy the tribes is another question altogether.

The fourth initiative, The Age-Verified Tribal Online and In-Person Sports Wagering & Homelessness Solutions Act, also has online sports betting at the heart of it. 

This amendment would see the tribes given exclusive rights for operating both online and in-person sports betting. 

The taxes raised here would go towards the homeless.  

The first two amendment proposals are bricks and mortar based, the second two are more focused on the online market.

In this day and age, it’s remarkable to see entities still prepared to fight for an offline gambling bill. As opposed to an online version.

This suggests that backers of the first two bills can see online betting being rejected. They must feel there is a greater chance of traditional casinos and card rooms being given licenses to expand their betting scope instead.

It’s all a tactical battle and the stakes are incredibly high. There will no doubt be plenty more twists and turns in this saga in the coming months. And at the moment, no one can say what the outcomes will be.

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