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Operators launch ballot measure to bring sports betting to California


A number of leading US commercial operators have announced a new ballot measure that would bring legal statewide online sports betting to California.

The measure, titled the the “California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act”, would allow for legal online sports betting, which it claims would “generate billions of dollars in revenue” to go towards fighting homelessness and increasing mental health support.

It is backed by seven leading operators: Bally’s, BetMGM, DraftKings, Fanatics, FanDuel, Penn National Gaming and Wynn Interactive.

As the measure would necessitate an amendment to the state constitution, it would require signatures from 8% of the number of people who voted in the last election for governor before it was filed. This total is set at 997,139 for the current election cycle.

If the required number of signatures are obtained, the measure would appear as a referendum in the November 2022 ballot. 

The product would be regulated by the gaming division within the state Department of Justice, with Native American tribes permitted to offer statewide betting in partnership with commercial operators. Players must be 21 or older to place a bet.

Operators will face a 10% tax on adjusted revenue. Of this total, 85% will go towards a homelessness and mental health fund, and 15% to tribes in the state.

The regulator will publish a list of permitted events for which bets may be offered.

In addition to regulating online betting, the bill would introduce a 15% turnover tax on any bets placed with “an illegal or tax-exempt online sports betting platform”.

Campaign manager Dana Williamson said the measure would be a major boost to the California state budget. 

“The California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act will raise hundreds of millions of dollars annually to fight homelessness and expand mental health support in California by allowing regulated entities to offer safe, responsible sports betting online,” she said. “Funding from the initiative will help those experiencing homelessness get off the street and into housing, increase mental health services and address issues of addiction.”

The campaign also said that internal polling showed 62% of respondents supporting the measure compared to 26% against.

The bill follows an earlier measure, proposed last month, that would allow for retail wagering to take place at tribal casinos. The campaign for the new measure said that the initiative “does not conflict with the pending California Tribe-backed measure”.

Last year, tribaes launched a ballot proposal for betting at the state’s tribal casinos and racetracks, but despite an extension to the signature-gathering process following disruption from the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, the measure did not appear on the ballot.