Eighteen tribes from across the State of California, led by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians in Southern California’s Riverside County, are pursuing legalized sports wagering through a statewide voter ballot initiative on the 2020 ballot. The initiative would allow in-person, on-site sports wagering at tribal casinos and licensed racetracks – but not internet or mobile wagering.
The initiative would amend the California Constitution to add “roulette, games played with dice, and sports wagering” to those games authorized in tribal compacts, allow sports wagering at licensed racetracks, and add statutory provisions regulating such wagering to the California code. The statute would prohibit betting on high school athletics, California college team events, or greyhound racing. Sports wagering would be limited to those 21 years and older, taxed at 10% with proceeds to public safety, mental health programs, education, and the costs of regulating the industry.
The Tribes and other supporters will need to collect 997,139 valid signatures (8% of the most recent gubernatorial vote total) by June 25, 2020 to ensure the initiative is placed on the November ballot.
The effort comes in the wake of a failed non-tribal initiative in 2018 by a group called “Californians for Sports Betting,” which filed a petition with the state but never collected any signatures, and a legislative initiative which failed to gain tribal support and is therefore likely to fail to reach the 2020 ballot.
With sports wagering now legal in 13 states and under consideration in a majority of states, high popular support for sports wagering, and the support of California’s largest gaming tribes, the initiative has a significant chance of success.
Patrick Sullivan is an attorney in Dickinson Wright’s Washington, D.C. office.