You’d think hundreds of millions of dollars could buy you just about anything in the world.
But apparently, even that just isn’t enough to legalize sports betting in California. Despite a record amount spent on the two gambling-related state ballot measures this campaign season, both Propositions 26 and 27 are tanking in the polls just weeks from the election and are headed for near-certain defeat.
That’s according to a Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) survey released last week, which showed Prop. 26 down by 11 percentage points and Prop. 27 failing by 26 percentage points.
“These results suggest that the sports wagering initiatives are foundering in the face of the opposition advertising campaigns,” said IGS co-director Eric Schickler in a statement. “The lack of support among key demographic groups makes passage of each an uphill climb at best.”
Prop. 26 would legalize in-person sports betting at tribal casinos, as well as allow dice and roulette games there. Prop. 27 would legalize online betting in California and is backed mainly by gambling websites like FanDuel and DraftKings.
Over the past three years, nearly 40 states have introduced legislation to legalize sports betting, and most — most recently Arizona and Arkansas — have already passed.
But in California, voters simply aren’t buying what the betting companies have been trying to sell.
Prop. 27 promises to help fight homelessness in the state by taxing betting corporations and diverting those funds to the cause. Organizations in support of the legislation have focused heavily on that in their marketing.
“They’re promoting it as a solution to homelessness, but voters aren’t buying that,” said Kathy Fairbanks, spokesperson for No on 27. “Voters don’t believe that funding for homeless programs is the only problem [with the fight against homelessness]. It’s government bureaucracy, it’s red tape, it’s all of that, none of which is considered in Prop. 27.”
Nathan Click, a spokesperson for Yes on 27, told the Los Angeles Times that Prop. 27 has faced “over $100 million in misleading and false attacks — $45 million before we even qualified for the ballot.”
Legalizing sports betting in-person would reap $300 million for tribal casinos by some estimates while introducing online betting with Prop. 27 could generate $2.8 billion.
Because of the sheer size of the untapped California betting market, it’s likely a matter of when, not if, some form of legalized sports betting makes its way into the state.
“The reality is they’re definitely going to try again,” said I. Nelson Rose, author and emeritus gambling law professor at Whittier College. “Some group is going to quickly start writing an initiative again.”
According to Rose, betting corporations are unlikely to give up and voters could even wind up seeing sports betting propositions on the 2024 ballot.