Most of the focus of Tuesday’s US elections was on the balance of power in the House of Representatives and Senate, but there were loads of contests up and down every state’s ballot, including two Propositions in California related to sports betting. Let’s just say I hope you didn’t bet on sports betting becoming legal in the Golden State.
Both Proposition 26 and Proposition 27 went down in flames. Though there are still lots of votes still left to be counted, the races are not remotely close and the Associated Press has felt comfortable to call both for the “no” camps.
Proposition 26 would have legalized in-person sports betting on tribal lands and at four horse race tracks in the state. It was the least controversial of the two measures, as it would have allowed tribes to maintain their control of much of the gambling in state. But “least controversial” doesn’t mean much when nearly 71% of voters rejected the measure. While only 38% of the state vote has been counted, there is no reason to think that gap will be made up.
Proposition 27 was the one that elicited stronger feelings, mostly to the negative. This measure would have legalized online sports betting, allowing tribes and gambling companies to operate betting sites. Major operators like FanDuel and DraftKings spent tons of money campaigning for the measure, spending an estimated $450 million in the state to try to drum up votes.
On the flip side, the tribes were strongly against it, as they didn’t want outside companies carving up the state, taking customers away from them.
Voters clearly hated the idea of either online sports betting in general or allowing big companies to be part of it (or both), as the Proposition stood no chance. Nearly 84% of voters said no to the measure.
To this writer, at least, the results are fairly surprising. It’s not that the measures were voted down, but that they were voted down so convincingly. Sports betting ballot measures have passed in other states (legalizing sports betting is not always put to the people – sometimes state legislatures make the decision), but even in this case, I would have thought that if voters said no, it would have been by smaller margins. It could have to do with the specific wording of the propositions and not sports betting in general, but who knows?
It is tough to say where California goes from here. It is a coveted state by all gambling operators, as its population would make it one of the largest gambling markets in the world. Sports betting may have to wait until 2024 to get another shot.