Californians won’t be able to legally bet on sports anytime soon, even when the games return from the coronavirus shutdown.
A bill that would have legalized — and taxed — wagering on professional and college sports, potentially raising hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue, was removed from consideration by its sponsor Monday in the face of opposition from the 62 American Indian tribes that operate casinos in California.
State Sen. Bill Dodd, of Napa, said he withdrew the proposed state constitutional amendment a day before it was scheduled for a committee hearing, because it seemed unlikely that it would pass in time to qualify for the November ballot.
“Given the deadlines for getting a measure on the November ballot and the impact of COVID-19 on the public’s ability to weigh in, we were not able to get the bill across the finish line this year,” Dodd said.
Dodd and Assemblyman Adam Gray, of Merced, introduced the legislation last year without details about who could operate the betting operations and how they’d be taxed. They said legal sports betting in California would generate at least $200 million in tax revenue in its first year and eventually raise $500 million to $700 million a year as it grows in popularity.
The legislators had hoped to craft a compromise between the Native American tribes that run California casinos and the state’s other legal gambling interests, such as cardrooms and horse race tracks.
It seemed that goal had been accomplished last month, when Dodd and Gray released a revised plan that would have allowed sports bets at tribal casinos and race tracks — and on mobile devices — but not at cardrooms. A concession was offered to cardrooms, which would have been able to continue offering certain types of games that the tribes contend are not legal.
But the tribes didn’t sign off on the deal. James Siva, chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, said the tribes were “heartened” by the bill being pulled.
“While we appreciate that the state was trying to find additional revenues during this time, this bill was simply bad policy,” he said. “It unjustly rewards the commercial, for-profit gaming industry for their practice of conducting Nevada-style games in flagrant violation of California law. This bill would have also threatened brick-and-mortar establishments by legalizing online gaming, which would reward out-of-state commercial business entities and raise regulatory challenges.”
Dodd said he would keep trying to legalize sports betting, which many Californians do illegally through offshore websites and apps.
“It remains important that we lift this widespread practice out of the shadows to make it safer and to generate money for the people of California,” he said. “I will continue to be engaged in the issue as we work toward 2022.”