Four ballot initiatives

Nearly half of California voters back sports betting legalization, UC survey finds

Reading time 2:04 min

California's sports betting legalization, called to be the next big market in the US, would be supported by 45% of voters, while more than 1 in 5 claims to be undecided, according to a new poll released Wednesday by the University of California's Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies in collaboration with the Los Angeles Times.

The survey results show that 45% would support amending the California Constitution to allow sports betting. One-third of voters said they are opposed to such an effort while the remaining 22% of respondents are undecided.

However, the poll did not ask voters to weigh in on any of the details of how California would establish legal sports betting. As many as four ballot measures on the topic could appear on the statewide ballot in November, each envisioning a different business model. The proposals are backed by rival groups promising to spend what could be a record amount of campaign cash to prevail on election day.

“It’s just anybody’s guess right now how an initiative might fare,” said Mark DiCamillo, the institute’s survey director. “They might be able to win if they can prove a benefit to the state and a lack of harm to the larger population.”

The only measure to qualify so far is backed by four state's tribes, and it would only permit in-person wagering at tribal casinos and four horse racing tracks with 70% of the tax revenues earmarked to the state’s general fund, but does not include online verticals. A second initiative is supported by the mayors of San Jose, Colma, Inglewood and Gardena alongside major cardroom operators, and would legalize online and in-person sports betting while also permitting licensed cardrooms to offer additional card and tile games currently limited to tribal casinos.

Another one, backed by DraftKings, FanDuel and other national operators, would legalize online betting in partnership with tribal casinos that meet certain requirements while directing 85% of tax revenues to homelessness programs. It has gained the support of Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer and the mayors of Sacramento, Oakland and Long Beach. These two last proposals are still gathering signatures.

In January, California Secretary of State Dr. Shirley N. Weber announced that the proponents of the state's fourth sports betting initiative, backed by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and other three tribeswere cleared to begin collecting petition signatures for the November 2022 ballot. This tribal initiative, presented last November by the San Manuel Band, the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, and Wilton Rancheria, seeks to give tribes exclusive rights for operating both in-person sports betting on tribal lands and online gambling statewide. It also promises funds to solve California’s homeless struggles as it would send 85% of tax revenue per year toward helping people secure housing. 

State law allows proponents of a ballot initiative to withdraw their measure any time before the final deadline on June 30.

The Berkeley poll suggests that groups seeking to legalize sports betting will begin the campaign season in a much stronger position than opponents. Very few subsets of California voters were mostly opposed to the idea of the new legal gambling enterprise. 

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