At the polls on Tuesday, Californian voters overwhelmingly defeated two propositions that would have brought sports gambling into California, with the Golden state remaining one of the handful of states to not allow the practice.
Ever since being created as propositions earlier this year, Proposition 26 (Allowing in-person sports book betting in Indian casinos and horse racetracks) and Proposition 27 (Legalizing online and mobile sports betting) have not fared well in polling. Despite the tribes and betting companies spending more than a record $357 million on ads throughout the state, and the promise of tax revenue going to homeless and mental health services, both propositions failed to garner significant support due to mass opposition from many Californians due to concerns that smart phones could be used as gambling devices and unanswered questions about how profits would be distributed. Out of state casinos with sports betting were also concerned about the massive loss of revenue, fueling many i Nevada and elsewhere to oppose the measures.
Last month, polls showed that 57% of Californians opposed Prop 26, with a whopping 69% opposed to Prop 27. Results in so far from Tuesday have showed an even more lopsided outcome than many had predicted, with 70.4% of voters voting no on Prop 26 and 83.3% of voters voting no on Prop 27 with 42% of votes currently in.
Those against the measures celebrated on Tuesday and Wednesday, with opponents of both noting that Californians did not want increased gambling in the state.
“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 cardrooms that provide millions of dollars in tax revenue to communities and tens of thousands of jobs,” said the No on Proposition 26 Campaign in a statement Tuesday night.
In addition, tribes, who had backed Prop 26 and opposed Prop 27 due to the latter threatening to take away business from tribal casinos, had a mixed night and ultimately wound up where they started earlier this year.
“Our internal polling has been clear and consistent for years: California voters do not support online sports betting,” explained Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation tribal chairman Anthony Roberts. “Voters have real and significant concerns about turning every cellphone, laptop and tablet into a gambling device, the resulting addiction and exposure to children.”
Proponents of both measures remained quiet throughout Wednesday, only giving brief statements and noting that the next effort on legalizing sports book betting in California would likely come in 2024.
“Companies like FanDuel, DraftKings, MGM, they all had a lot to gain if this passed, so spending $350 million on ads, another $100 million on other promotions, and so much more on mobilization to get Prop 27 through was well worth the risk,” explained Sharon James, a gambling and casino researcher, to the Globe on Wednesday. “But it just didn’t pay off. I mean, if these ballot numbers hold, we’re looking at 4 out of every 5 Californians saying that they did not want mobile sports betting. There are rarely landslides like that on Propositions or ballot measures involving gambling. They even used the play book of saying that revenues would go to needed projects. A lot of depressed areas, like the Midwest and East Coast cities, got gambling passed based on that playbook.
“They just didn’t foresee Californians being so against it. A lot of people really read on what they would do, and besides, Vegas and Reno are only a few hours away for most Californians. The next time they try and pass it, and they’ll try, they will need to really think of a different playbook. Over 80%. At that point demographics don’t even matter. Everyone just hates it regardless of age, gender, race, or religion. As my colleague likes to put it, they put all their money on blue and forgot you could only put it on red and black.”
A Phoenix proposition involving legalized sports betting is likely to be formed sometime next year in time for a 2024 vote.
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