As legalized sports betting continues to sweep the nation, the states that host the most NFL franchises (California and Florida, with three each) continue to push their football gambling to barroom bookies.
In both states, past agreements with Native American tribes have made the situation a political hot potato as existing gambling interests try to stem a tidal wave that is otherwise sweeping the nation.
For California, the fight has landed on the ballot, in the form of two propositions: 26 and 27.
The first favors the tribes. If approved, it would allow “on-field sports betting only at privately operated horse racetracks in four specified counties,” with tribes in full control of betting. It would also expand the table games allowed in tribal casinos, with roulette wheels and craps tables being installed.
Proposition 27 opens the floodgates for online and mobile sports betting. That would allow companies like FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM to apply for licenses. As noted by Bill King of Sports Business Journalany sports book that wants to do business in California must be licensed in at least 10 other states.
There is another important wrinkle. Although tribal interests oppose Proposition 27, any sportsbook doing business in California must give significant tribal flavor. The price of a license can be, for the King, 100 million dollars.
That’s also the estimated amount each side will spend in the fight over Proposition 27. Still, that’s peanuts in the grand scheme of things. The most populous state in the country would generate billions in tax revenue. (Already, billions in California tax revenue have been lost in each of the four years since the Supreme Court allowed all states to embrace sports betting.)
As Brad Allen of LegalSportsReport.com recently explained, tribes oppose Proposition 27 for multiple reasons. They claim they have been promised sovereignty over gambling in California. They are also pushing the claim that Proposition 27 would turn every phone, computer and tablet into a gambling device, making it harder to ensure responsible gambling. (This argument would have a little more credibility if the tribes weren’t also trying to stamp out the ability to offer in-person sports betting and otherwise protect their gambling turf.) They also fear that online sports betting and mobile will eventually become online and mobile casinos, which would take money away from tribally owned personal casinos.
King explains that the California Democratic Party will oppose Proposition 27 and that it will take no position on Proposition 26. This speaks to the deeper push and pull that will turn another political issue into not what the people want, but what they want. that politicians I think politicians need.
Regardless, voters will have a chance to vote on both proposals. If California wants to keep up with the times — and capture billions that are otherwise being gambled legally across state lines or illegally from Siskiyou County to San Diego and all points in between — voters will embrace both Proposition 26 and Proposition 27.
It would be different if the fight were to focus on philosophical or moral issues arising from gambling. Its not. It is about local interests trying to maintain the income and influence they enjoy, at the expense of state tax revenues and the ability of citizens to engage in activities embraced in an ever-increasing number of states.
The irony, of course, is that the condition that has routinely been considered ahead of its time is already lagging behind. If Proposition 27 fails, California could end up being left in the dust of a new gold rush that would prompt Horace Greeley to make a one-word revision of his classic mantra.
Go East, young man.
California sports betting comes down to propositions 26 and 27 originally appeared on Pro Football Talk