Whether they like it or not, voters in California are currently the prized object in the state’s most expensive ballot measure campaign ever. With 12 more weeks to go before Election Day, the arguments for and against Prop 27 — a California sports betting question on the 2022 statewide ballot — seem to have merged.
While future advertisements may present nuances, present new stakeholders or offer rebuttals, it’s unlikely that the primary substance of the messages — which both sides of the issue will put out between now and Nov. 8 — will fundamentally change. That means Californians who have already seen some of the ads could probably write the scripts for future commercials themselves.
California sports betting ads dominating screens
Campaigns to adopt or defeat Prop 27 in California this year seem destined to become part of the most expensive ballot question in US history. Through Aug. 4, PlayCA says organizations on both sides of Prop 27 have already spent more than $216 million to get their respective messages out.
Prop 27 would legalize online sports betting on all non-tribal lands in California. It would allow online sportsbook operators like BetMGM and FanDuel to acquire licenses from the state once they have partnered with a California tribal casino operator.
Among the methods to distribute campaigns’ messaging have been video ads appearing on broadcast television and online. The aptly named “Yes on 27” and “No on 27” ad channels on YouTube count millions of views between them, although the YouTube statistics suggest Yes on 27’s campaign on that channel is far more successful to date.
No on 27’s most-viewed video had about 2,700 views as of Aug. 16. Meanwhile, the Yes on 27’s most-viewed ad on Tuesday morning counted over 3.6 million views. That’s no indicator of how often Californians have seen the ads in other places, however.
It could also simply be an indicator that Yes on 27 spent more to promote its YouTube videos than No on 27 did. The breakdown of that $216 million supports that theory, as $150 million or nearly 70% of that total has been spent by Yes on 27.
Despite all the spending, the ads aren’t presenting a slew of complex, disparate arguments to viewers. There are solid reasons behind the repetitious and simple strategy.
Methodology behind the political madness in California
Most voters don’t take a slew of paperwork or compile long notes on their smartphones to take with them when they go to the polls. Thus, the easier a political campaign’s message is to remember, the more effective it likely will be.
Brevity and repetition are, therefore, allies of remembrance. Additionally, people are more likely to remember a message and follow through with its recommendation for action if they have an emotional tie to the message.
Those are reasons Californians are seeing and will continue to see replays of identical ads. Additionally, new ads will simply be re-packagings of the same messages. The element intended to create an emotional buy-in will probably remain consistent as well.
So far, that’s been how Prop 27 will affect various Indigenous Peoples Groups that dwell within California’s borders. Both sides have centered their arguments around that impact.
There are other elements intended to invoke an emotional response and emblazon themselves on voters’ memories as well, with which Californians could play a Prop 27 Ad Bingo game.
As is usually the case, both sides of the question are guilty of taking some creative license to make their claims.
Both sides need context in their California sports betting arguments
The downside to 30-second ads is that there’s no room to include information that provides a lot of important context to the arguments. In some cases, that context can change the strength of an argument considerably. Let’s break a couple of them down.
Where will the revenue go?
Consider No on 27’s argument that Prop 27 would funnel 90% of revenue from legal online sports betting out of the state. It’s true that Prop 27 levies a firm 10% tax rate on online sports betting revenue and most of the big-name online sportsbook brands do not make their corporate headquarters in California. It isn’t true that every other dollar from that activity would head out of California, though. The tribal casino partners are going to get a cut of that revenue, for starters. Additionally, online sportsbooks like Caesars and DraftKings will need some “boots on the ground” to keep everything running in California.
Spikes in gambling addiction
No on 27 also presents the legalization of online sports betting as a sudden opening of a Pandora’s Box that would turn every device capable of accessing the internet into a gambling device, causing a spike in gambling addiction and underage gambling. That reasoning erroneously implies that Californians haven’t already been using their devices to gamble on illegal offshore websites for years. Additionally, regulated online sportsbooks employ reliable strategies to prevent underage gambling and incorporate responsible gambling controls. If anything, concerns over problem and underage gambling are reasons to legalize and regulate online sports betting.
As a follow-up to that note, some of the same tribal casino operators who oppose Prop 27 have also taken part in presenting their proposal for online sports betting in California for the 2024 election. If legal online sports betting is inherently dangerous as they surmise now, it seems that’s an acceptable cost when it happens on their terms.
Regardless of the merits of certain arguments, they are going to be repeated often on this issue. Buckle up, Californians; there are 12 more weeks of this ahead. At least now, you have a bingo game to make it a little more bearable.