Bill Pascrell, III: US operators face “Herculean task” in getting Californians to vote for Proposition 27
Leading US lobbyist Bill Pascrell, III insists US online gambling operators must adopt a different approach if Proposition 27 is going to win the support of Californians on the November ballot.
If Proposition 27 – also known as the California Legalize Sports Betting and Revenue for Homelessness, Housing and Education Initiative – is successful, it will open up the largest and wealthiest state in the US to legalised online and mobile sports wagering.
The proposition is therefore being supported by US market leaders including DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM, who have collectively ploughed more than $350m into an advertising campaign designed to educate Californians over the benefits of legal online sports betting.
It will not be plain sailing, however. Proposition 27 is at odds with Proposition 26, a separate bill that would limit wagering to in-person bets at tribal casinos. The rival bill is seeking to protect the gambling and financial interests of local tribes, who have come out in force and fierce opposition against a potential online gambling expansion in the state.
Indeed, a broad coalition of Californian tribes are lobbying against the bill with a No on 27 campaign, describing it as “bad for all Californians”.
The tribes say out-of-state corporations want to suck 90% of profits out of California with no real investment in jobs, while online operators have suggested their bill provides the only permanent solution to the state’s homelessness and mental health crises.
Despite spending upwards of $60m on television advertising, a recent poll suggested online operators still have their work cut out in convincing Californians to vote for the initiative.
An August poll released by the Yes on 26/No on 27 campaign suggested that among the three quarters of the electorate that are aware of the proposition, only 33%, or one in three, would vote in favour of the operator-backed Proposition 27.
“That’s terrible,” said Pascrell in conversation with iGaming NEXT MD Pierre Lindh on the iGaming NEXT podcast. “And it’s not about spending more money, it’s about spending the money wisely by highlighting the bulk of the benefits – the taxes and the licencing fees going to help the homeless.
“California has a huge homeless crisis, right? They’re not talking about that, they’re shitting on the tribes. If the election were held today, both ballot referendums I think would fail, so there is a lot of work to be done,” he added.
Pascrell has been contacted by both sides of the battle and is hoping to find some common ground between the warring tribes and online operators.
He pointed out on the podcast that the California Democratic Party, the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People in America and the California Teachers Union are all opposed to Proposition 27, demonstrating the size of the task at hand.
The online operators have not abandoned hope however, and the likes of DraftKings are still hanging their hats on the prospect of legal wagering in California, which would significantly expand the TAM and overall revenue opportunity in North America.
Bill Pascrell, III: “I was just up in Boston with Jason Robins, the head of DraftKings. He’s put all his eggs in the California basket, which I don’t believe was wise. I respect him and I respect his company but they need to run a different campaign.”
But can they turn the tide with less than three months to go until ballot day on 8 November?
“It’s hard. It’s going to be a Herculean task,” said Pascrell. “I was just up in Boston with Jason Robins, the head of DraftKings. He’s put all his eggs in the California basket, which I don’t believe was wise.
“I respect him and I respect his company but they need to run a different campaign. There’s time to turn the ship, but as each day passes, it’s not just about spending money. It’s about spending it wisely.
“You have to explain why they should do this, because of jobs, tax revenue and the homeless. Stop shitting on the tribes and just let them go at it, because you only end up pissing people off. You need to run a more powerful, impactful campaign.
“It’s not about just spending money on ads; you’ve got to get into the streets and make sure you get your supporters to the polls because it’s going to be a very low turnout election,” he added.
William J. Pascrell III, Esq. (BP3) is a Partner at Princeton Public Affairs Group, the largest statewide lobbying firm in the country; a Trustee for Entain Foundation US, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting responsible gambling, sports integrity and corporate compliance in the U.S.; and a globally-recognised gambling expert.