If anyone expected California to open its doors to sports gambling anytime soon, those hopes have been squashed. A proposed initiative that would have allowed the activity in the state didn’t even gain enough support to qualify for an appearance on the 2020 ballot, and the deadline for introducing new sports gambling-related bills expired last month.
The initiative was created by Californians for Sports Betting, a group campaigning for legislative changes to allow sports gambling in the Golden State. It was introduced last June, which should have given it more than ample opportunity to gain support. However, out of the approximately 623,000 signatures needed for the measure to be placed on voters’ ballots next year, the initiative did not receive even one.
Russell Lowery, a consultant for the group, asserts, “We never advanced to get a single signature. It started a conversation in California gaming on what is the right path forward, and those conversations will continue until they figure out the puzzle.”
As the group tried to drum up support for the initiative, they met a considerable amount of resistance as many who want to see sports gambling come to California are hoping lawmakers can make progress. Lowery believes those individuals are looking at the problem from the wrong angle. He states, “The difference between June and today is everyone understands it’s not going to happen legislatively without some sort of pressure from an initiative. In the cardroom and sports betting industry, I think everyone now understands that if it’s going to happen, it’s going to be through an initiative.”
According to the petition’s summary, the initiative was somewhat relaxed. It would allow “federally recognized Native American tribes to operate roulette and craps games on tribal lands, subject to compacts negotiated by the governor and ratified by the legislature” and “licensed gambling establishments, such as card rooms, to conduct on-site sports wagering and to operate Nevada-style card games, and may result in authorization of sports wagering on tribal lands because of federal law.” On the other hand, it would prohibit “[The] governor from approving gaming on newly acquired off-reservation tribal lands and negotiating gaming compacts with non-federally recognized tribes.”
There’s still time for another attempt. According to California law, initiatives must be circulated for 180 days and have to be certified at least 131 days ahead of the election. This means that any new initiative would need to complete the process by June 25, 2020.