Is Misinformation Plaguing California Sports Betting Propositions?

Written By Derek Helling on October 12, 2022
2022 CA prop sports betting guide

In an age of endless online content on any subject imaginable, it isn’t hard to find bad information. Even reputable sources with the best of intentions can spread misinformation, as evidenced by several publications covering the upcoming California sports betting votes.

A new poll of likely voters in the state shows how being informed about Prop 26 and Prop 27 influences how those people plan to vote on the measures on Nov. 8. Unfortunately, an article presenting the poll’s results contains some inaccurate material.

New poll suggests one California sports betting measure has gained support

Lyndsay Winkley of The San Diego Union-Tribune presented data from a poll the publication took part in conducting on Tuesday. SurveyUSA administered the survey on the behalf of the Tribune and KGTV 10News.

While this presentation of the poll doesn’t detail a lot of specifics about how the survey was conducted, who responded, or how many likely California voters took part, it shows that among those people who participated, Prop 26 has become a little more popular.

As Winkley correctly points out, earlier polls showed dismal support for both Prop 26 and Prop 27 in California. However, this new polling estimates support for Prop 26 at 43%. That’s still short of what the measure needs to actually become law in California but an improvement nonetheless.

Without more information about the poll, it’s hard to judge the value of this data. At the same time, there is one interesting nugget of context. Winkley states both measures are:

“more likely to be supported by voters who were more familiar with the two propositions and understood the difference between them.”

Unfortunately, it seems Winkley and/or The Los Angeles Times‘ contribution to the report doesn’t fully grasp the important difference between the measures. There is some inaccurate reporting in the article.

Prop 26 and Prop 27 are not competing measures

One line of the article presents some bad context for this topic.

“If both propositions receive more than 50 percent approval, the one with the most votes wins.”

That would be absolutely true if Prop 26 and Prop 27 were competing ballot measures. The problem with that statement, however, is that they are not competing with each other. It’s completely possible for both of the measures to become law in California simultaneously.

As the state’s voters guide explains, these propositions concern different aspects of California sports betting. Prop 26 only governs in-person sports betting and does not contain any language addressing online betting. Conversely, Prop 27 only concerns online betting and includes no provisions whatsoever for physical sportsbooks. Should both measures become law, California would have separate systems for online and retail sports betting.

If Prop 26 passes and Prop 27 fails, in-person betting on sports would be legal in the state while online sports betting would remain illegal. The opposite would be true if Prop 27 passes and Prop 26 falls short. Should both measures fail (the most likely outcome), the current status quo (if you want to bet legally you have to drive to Arizona, Nevada, or Oregon) remains intact.

But aren’t Prop 26 supporters against Prop 27?

Some of them, yes. That isn’t universal, however. Once again, though, it’s kind of an irrelevant question because the two issues aren’t joined at the hip.

The campaigning against Prop 27 that many of the groups who also support Prop 26 have undertaken is not motivated by a desire to clear the way for Prop 26’s enactment. Rather, many of those entities (tribal casino operators among them) are opposed to Prop 27 because they want to maintain their control over gambling in the state.

Their support or lack thereof when it comes to Prop 26 is a completely separate issue. In fact, one of the big reasons why some proponents of Prop 26 are behind the measure actually has nothing to do with sports betting at all.

As Matt Kredell of PlayCA pointed out, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, Pechanga Band of Indians, and Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation recently ran a television ad supporting Prop 26. The ad never mentions sports betting or Prop 27.

Instead, the ad focuses on a provision in Prop 26 that would allow citizens in the state to bring suit against any entity they believe is in violation of any California gambling law. More importantly for this discussion, neither of those three tribal authorities are among the supporters of the No on 27 campaign. If Prop 26 needed to outperform Prop 27 to become law, then it would make no sense for these groups to be for Prop 26 but neutral on Prop 27.

The Los Angeles Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune are not by any means the propagators of misinformation on this topic, however. Sadly, some other reputable outlets in the state have communicated some incorrect messages as well.

San Francisco Chronicle, another LA Times report suspect as well

Last month, the Los Angeles Times wrote an editorial that Steve Friess of PlayCA legitimately criticized for having its head stuck in the sand on gambling currently happening in the state on the black market and vilifying gambling operations.

Earlier this month, Steven Schult of PlayCA accurately pointed out some misinformation from a San Francisco Chronicle editorial as well, including the effectiveness of the state’s legislature at expanding gambling on its own and proposing a notion that retail sports betting at horse tracks in the state will represent a huge influx of new revenue for the tracks. (spoiler: it wouldn’t)

Considering this is the information that readers of these publications are getting on these topics, it’s little wonder that support for both Prop 26 and Prop 27 is dismal. As The SurveyUSA poll suggests, accurate and complete information about the ballot measures correlates to support for both measures.

If that is true, as the poll proposes, then a question becomes relevant: if both propositions fail next month, how much did misinformation contribute to those outcomes? Hopefully, voters in the state will avail themselves of the information in the state’s voters guide before they go to the polls on Nov. 8.

Photo by PlayUSA
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including legislation and litigation in the gaming industry. He enjoys reading hundreds of pages of a gambling bill or lawsuit for his audience. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa.

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