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Committee approves California sports betting bill


The California Senate Committee on Government Organization has approved a constitutional amendment bill to allow sports betting in the state.

In a partisan 9-3 vote, with all Democrats on the committee voting for the bill and all Republicans against, SCA 6 – proposed by committee chair Bill Dodd – was adopted. The bill has now been referred to the Senate Committee on Appropriations, with a hearing scheduled for 9 June. 

The bill, for which a companion proposal (ACA 16) has been filed in the Assembly by Assemblyman Adam Gray, sets out plans to allow for a statewide referendum on the sports betting, which would have to be backed by two-thirds of voters before it could come into law.

The proposed amendments allow only tribal casinos and racetracks to operate legal betting, blocking card rooms from the vertical.

Entities offering sports betting would be able to offer online betting, which would be subject to a 15% gross revenue tax, and retail, which will be taxed at 10%. Online operators would also be expected to pay an initial $5m license fee, plus an annual renewal fee of $1m and may operate one online “skin”.

However, the bills also aim to amend the California constitution to recognize the authority of card rooms’ right to offer player-dealer games. This sees a player employed by the venue to collect losses and rake, and pay out winnings. 

This concession has been unpopular with tribal casino operators, however, with the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) arguing the provision allows for “a massive expansion of games” offered by the cardrooms, that “fundamentally changes the legal structure of California’s peer-to-peer gaming industry”.

The bill will now be referred to the Senate Committee on Appropriations, with a hearing scheduled for 9 June. 

Should the measure be passed by both chambers of the California legislature, a question on sports betting would then be added to the November 2020 ballot alongside the presidential and congressional elections, requiring a two-thirds majority to become law.