If the state’s voters fail to legalize online sports betting in California this November, they just might get a crack at doing so again in 2024. Operators of several US casinos – tribal gambling facilities inside California’s borders, to be exact – have submitted a petition to put their own proposal on the ballot that year.
There are several key differences between Prop 27 on the ballot this fall and the language of the potential measure that might appear on the 2024 ballot. Depending on your perspective, each has its superior qualities over the other.
California online sports betting petition ready for inspection
Some tribal casino operators are waging a campaign on two fronts when it comes to online sports betting in California. One front is pushing for Californians to vote no on Prop 27, while the other is an attempt to qualify their own initiative for the ballot in 2024.
On Monday, PlayCalifornia confirmed that leaders from the Graton Rancheria, Rincon, San Manuel, and Wilton Rancheria tribal nations filed their petition for a 2024 ballot measure with California Sec. of State Shirley Weber‘s office.
The proposed amendment to the state’s constitution is called the Age-Verified Tribal On-Line and In-Person Sports Wagering & Homelessness Solutions Act.
Local officials had 30 days from that filing to conduct a random sampling of the signatures. In order to qualify for the ballot automatically, workers must be able to verify 110% of the sample. The minimum signature threshold is 997,139 signatures from registered California voters.
Should the workers fail to verify at least 95% of the signatures, the petition would be dismissed. If the verification falls somewhere between 95% and 110%, the state will take on the work of checking each signature.
Thus, Californians should know in late August whether the Act will get the automatic qualification, miss the cut, or be awaiting further verification. Should the state certify the petition, the vote on Prop 27 this year becomes a lot more interesting.
Aren’t Californians voting on the same thing this year?
Well, kind of. To be clear, voter approval of Prop 27 this fall would not mean the 2024 ballot measure becomes pointless. In fact, getting their initiative on the ballot in 2024 would actually become even more important for the tribal casino operators behind it.
The huge difference between Prop 27 and the proposed 2024 ballot measure is the control of online sports wagering in the state. The language of Prop 27 effectively makes tribal casinos a part of the ecosystem, whereas the 2024 measure would make tribal casinos the center of that system.
There are some similarities. Both measures would legalize online sports betting in most of the state. Online sportsbook operators like BetMGM, DraftKings, etc., would have to partner with tribal casinos in both proposals.
Additionally, both measures allocate revenue from online sports betting to social causes like housing and non-gaming tribal groups within California. However, the aspects in which the proposals differ are massive.
What are the differences between the two California online sports betting proposals?
There are some funding differences. The housing allotment in the 2024 measure would be a 10% cut of gross revenue. Prop 27 allocates 85% of the 10% revenue share for the cause. These are the bigger deviations.
So, what are the scenarios from here? It’s a little hard to tell at the moment, but the bottom line could be that there will be lawyers.
What might happen with gambling in California in the near future
To produce some hypotheticals, some assumptions are necessary. First, let’s assume the tribal operators behind the 2024 measure do eventually qualify their ballot measure.
Furthermore, let’s assume that there are no legal hurdles to tribal gaming compact holders offering online gambling on non-tribal lands. (That’s a completely separate but perhaps relevant matter that could occupy an entire semester course at a law school)
From there, the simplest scenario is both Prop 27 and the 2024 measure failing at the ballot box. As far as online sports betting goes, things in California would continue exactly as they are now. Of course, there’s the matter of in-person wagering that Prop 26 this year governs, but let’s not complicate things any further right now.
The next circumstance is Prop 27 failing at the ballot box this year and the 2024 measure getting voter approval. The terms of the 2024 measure would simply become law in California in that case. Should the opposite happen, Prop 27 passes, and the 2024 measure fails, all tenets of Prop 27 would remain law.
The stickiest situation would be both Prop 27 and the 2024 measure passing.
Competing laws mean lots of attorney billable hours
In that situation, courts would likely become the arbitrator of which measure overrides the other where the two differ. That would likely be an expensive, long battle that could even involve federal courts because the US government is a party to tribal gaming compacts.
Those are simplistic readings of this situation as well. There are so many other tangential possibilities. As an example, should Prop 27 pass this year, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the tribal groups behind the 2024 measure would try to block its implementation in court.
Additionally, there’s no telling how long it will take to negotiate new tribal gaming compact amendments and receive approval for them from the US. Dept. of the Interior.
How much support the tribes seeking to hold up the implementation of Prop 27 would have in doing so is uncertain. Already, two tribal casino operators have endorsed Prop 27. How much taste others may have for a drawn-out confrontation in court is unclear at the moment.
Simply put, the submission of the 2024 measure petition means things could get messy, and it could be years before there’s a clear regulated system for online sports betting in California. The fate of the petition will help determine the size of that mess.