Californians to vote on mobile sports betting bill in November

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The potential legalisation of mobile sports betting in California is likely to appear on the state’s midterm ballot in November after a petition to include the measure gathered some 1.6 million signatures in support.

If approved, the measure would allow for statewide mobile gaming with a 10% tax rate on revenues. The proposal also calls for a $100m upfront licensing fee, and for operators to be licensed already in a minimum of 10 states in order to be considered.

The measure, as it will appear on the ballot, states: “Legalises online and mobile sports wagering, which currently is prohibited, for persons 21 years and older. Such wagering may be offered only by federally recognised Indian tribes and eligible businesses that contract with them.

“Individuals placing bets must be in California and not located on Indian lands. Imposes 10% tax on sports wagering revenues and licensing fees. Directs tax and licensing revenues first to regulatory costs, then remainder to: 85% to homelessness programmes; 15% to non-participating tribes. Specifies licensing, regulatory, consumer protection, and betting integrity standards for sports wagering.”

The measure’s inclusion on the ballot will be confirmed once state officials have been able to verify the more than 1.6 million signatures gathered by the campaign ‘Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support’.

The campaign is funded by an ensemble of the largest US-facing gaming operators, including Bally’s, BetMGM, DraftKings, Fanatics Betting and Gaming, FanDuel, Penn National and Wynn.

Flutter Entertainment CEO Peter Jackson: “If the referendum is successful and California adheres to our expected timetable, we’d anticipate that the state would launch in time for the 2023 NFL season.”

The specifics of the legislation has generated ill feeling among parts of the sector, with some arguing the terms favour only larger, established operators at the expense of building a competitive market.

The reaction among bigger players has been positive, however. Peter Jackson, CEO of FanDuel parent company Flutter Entertainment, told investors on the firm’s Q1 2022 earnings call today: “We’re very excited about the Californian situation. 

“Clearly, getting to this stage was not straightforward. And we’re very, very happy to be on the ballot. We’ve got a best in class campaign team that has had significant levels of funding. I’d flag that ours is the only ballot that will bring hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue targeted at mental health and homelessness solutions, which are real critical imperatives in the state.” 

The measure will be included on California’s midterm ballot alongside a separate sports betting bill, which would allow for a retail-only, tribe-controlled sports betting market.

The state’s tribes have fiercely opposed the expansion of online sports betting to include international licensees.

Last month, Politico said the state was “mired in longstanding gambling divisions that already blunted legalisation efforts nearly two years ago.”

Commenting on the clash, Jackson said: “It’s not impossible that our ballot can be passed, and for example, the tribal retail only sports betting issue could also be passed. 

“They’re not mutually exclusive, but we’re doing everything we can to ensure that ours will be successful. If the referendum is successful and California adheres to our expected timetable, we’d anticipate that the state would launch in time for the 2023 NFL season,” he added. 

About the author

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Conor Mulheir

Conor entered the gaming industry in 2018 producing high-level live event content for audiences in London, Amsterdam and São Paulo. From 2020, he went on to report news and commission exclusive content for various gaming media brands before joining iGaming NEXT as editor in January 2022.

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