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Like Online Poker, CA Sports Betting Is An Issue No One Can Agree On

Written By Steve Ruddock | Updated:
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Sports betting supporters are learning a fast and simple truth: Gaming expansion in California is never easy.

Since the Supreme Court decision that overturned PASPA, there are now eight states with legalized sports betting. Plus, other states are already penciling it in as a top priority in 2019. But not California.

In California, sports betting appears to be following in online poker’s footsteps:

It is a divisive issue that pits varied California gaming interests against one another.

California’s recent sports betting efforts

Assemblyman Adam Gray introduced a California sports betting bill in May. Gray is a key player in the state’s online poker efforts. Unfortunately, the measure failed to find the necessary support to land it on the November 2018 ballot.

California’s new sports betting game plan targets the 2020 ballot. Political consultant Russell Lowery is the driving force behind the measure.

First introduced in June, the measure received the go-ahead from the state to begin the signature collection process. According to the LA Times, the proposal needs to garner 585,407 signatures from registered voters by February 2019 to find its way on the November 2020 ballot.

Cardroom involvement?

The California Gaming Association told the Times it didn’t know about the initiative and wasn’t involved in its drafting. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any behind the scenes consultation taking place. After all, the measure seems very cardroom friendly.

In addition to sports betting, the measure would also authorize “banking and percentage card games” at cardrooms as well as Roulette and Craps at tribal casinos, according to analysis by the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

The LAO’s summary of the measure states:

“Allows federally recognized Native American tribes to operate roulette and craps games on tribal lands, subject to compacts negotiated by the Governor and ratified by the Legislature. Allows licensed gambling establishments, such as card rooms, to conduct on-site sports wagering and to operate Nevada-style card games, and may result in authorization of sports wagering on tribal lands because of federal law. Prohibits Governor from approving gaming on newly acquired off-reservation tribal lands and negotiating gaming compacts with non-federally recognized tribes.”

Expect tribal casino opposition

Tribal lobbyist David Quintana firmly believes the state’s cardrooms are working in concert with Lowery on the proposition. Quintana told the Times that tribes are in no rush, and their main goal is to protect their brick-and-mortar businesses.

Quintana’s comments are likely directed at the measures authorization of “Nevada-style card games” at cardrooms.

Mark Macarro, chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, seemed to agree, telling the Times:

“This proposed measure would bring Vegas-style gaming to nearly 100 locations and urban areas throughout California.”

Not surprisingly, Macarro said tribes would vigorously oppose the measure.

The bottom line? Expect sports betting to turn into a knock-down, drag-out fight in the Golden State.

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Steve Ruddock

Steve Ruddock is an avid poker player and a veteran member of the gaming media. His primary focus is on the regulated US online casino and poker markets. He writes for numerous online and print publications, including,, and USA Today.

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