What Polling From Both Sides Says About Prospects For California Sports Betting Initiative

Written By Matthew Kredell on November 28, 2023 - Last Updated on February 15, 2024
California Sports Betting Polls

Polling presented by California sports betting initiative proponents and Indian tribes opposing the proposal shows differing perspectives on the prospects of online sports betting in the state.

Neither survey indicates a clamor for sports betting in the Golden State and both show the damage of negative campaigning last election cycle.

Polling offered by the Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming suggests the views of California voters haven’t changed since the last election when two ballot measures lost badly.

Pechanga and Graton Rancheria lead the coalition that opposed online sports betting Prop 27 and supported in-person sports betting Prop 26 last year. It includes many members of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association that officially came out against the new online sports betting initiatives last week.

Jacob Mejia, spokesperson for the coalition and vice president of public affairs for the Pechanga Development Corp., told PlayUSA:

“The polling is clear that, from a voter’s perspective, this thing is doomed from the start, even before they move to collect signatures. I think the Lakers have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl than this ill-conceived proposal has of passing.”

California sports betting initiative proponents offer a rosier but still tenuous outlook for online sports betting if done in a way that puts the current unregulated market under tribal control.

Poll finds CA voter views unchanged on sports betting

FM3 Research, which did polling for the Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming last election cycle, offered a recent survey of California voters conducted after the filing of two sports betting initiatives for the 2024 election.

Asked about their thoughts on legalizing online sports betting, 30% of California voters supported and 63% opposed. That’s within 2% of FM3’s final poll before last November’s election. And online sports betting Prop 27 didn’t even reach that number with only 17.7% voting yes.

Pollsters, who surveyed 837 California voters from Nov. 4 to Nov. 9, then presented the initiative with an equal number of arguments for and against. Support increased mildly to 33% with 59% still opposed.

“The majority of voters continue to strongly dislike online sports betting, especially when it’s not from tribes,” Mejia said. “I think the sponsors would be wise to reconsider their plans. This would be a monumental setback for sports betting in California.”

Initiative proponents find optimism in polling

Kasey Thompson, spokesperson for the California sports betting initiative filings and CEO of Eagle 1 Acquisition Co., the company behind the filings, provided PlayUSA with polling of 800 California voters conducted Aug. 29 to Aug. 31 by RG Strategies.

Initial polling on online sports betting is similar, with 35% in support and 48% opposed.

Thompson’s proposal to tribes includes handing over ownership of a significant amount of the offshore sports betting market currently operating unregulated in the state. After providing details on the illegal online sports betting market in the state, pollsters asked:

“Would you support or oppose a law allowing sports betting in California if run by tribal casinos who acquire the offshore sports betting assets, have them licensed and in turn offer a regulated taxed online sports betting industry to Californians by all licensed casinos, racetracks and cardrooms?”

Support increased to 50% with 35% opposed.

That’s still not nearly as high as initiative proponents typically want to see before facing an opposition campaign. Last year, Prop 27 proponents showed 62% support for their online sports betting initiative before it went down in flames.

But Thompson, who clarified that cardrooms won’t be part of the initiative, is undeterred.

“As people continue to hear about this, that number will keep going up and up,” Thompson said.

If proponents opt to move forward with their proposal, one advantage is that it would be the only sports betting initiative on the ballot. Thompson said his focus is on getting support from tribes and commercial entities. He said he believes support from voters will follow.

“I believe that California voters are just like the other 39 states that have wanted sports betting. They were confused last year with two initiatives and the most expensive negative campaign in US history thrown at them. I think they want the tribes to come together, and if they do they will get behind it and move forward together like the PGA and LIV Golf.”

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Matthew Kredell

Matthew Kredell serves as senior lead writer of legislative affairs involving online gambling at PlayUSA. He began covering efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling in 2007 after federal passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act disrupted his hobby of playing small-stakes online poker. He has since interviewed more than 300 lawmakers around the country and written extensively about online gambling legislation. He has led coverage of bills to legalize online gambling in most states. A lifelong Angeleno and USC journalism alum, Matthew started his career working as a sportswriter for a decade at the Los Angeles Daily News. He has written on a variety of topics for Playboy Magazine, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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