Annenberg Radio News

Voters reject Props 26 and 27; will legal sports betting ever come to California?

California became the first state to strike down sports betting yesterday as both Props 26 and 27 failed in resounding fashion on the 2022 ballot. Will we ever see legalized sports gambling in the Golden State?

Monitors at the Circa resort and casino sports book in Las Vegas display betting odds for last year's Super Bowl LV.

After months and months of record spending and an endless barrage of attack ads, the battle for the future of sports betting in California came to an end yesterday... or maybe more of an impasse.

Despite an overwhelming decision by California voters to reject Propositions 26 and 27 during Tuesday’s election, experts are convinced that big betting corporations like FanDuel and DraftKings are sure to loop back around for another try on the 2024 ballot.

But first, it’s important to understand why exactly voters in California so overwhelmingly struck down something that hasn’t faced much resistance anywhere else. Spokesperson for No on 27, Kathy Fairbanks, says it’s in large part due to the way they’ve presented it here.

Kathy Fairbanks: They’re promoting it as a solution to homelessness. And, you know... the voters aren’t buying that. Voters don’t believe that funding is the only problem that we, you know, funding for homeless programs isn’t the problem. It’s government bureaucracy. It’s red tape. It’s bad policy, all of that -- none of which is, you know, considered in Prop 27.

A large part of it also has to do with the betting corporations underestimating the support voters have for California native tribes.

Jacob Mejia: I mean, I think for companies that make their money setting lines, they obviously totally blew this one.

Jacob Mejia is the executive director of the Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations.

Jacob Mejia: By voting no, the voters just reinforced their strong support for tribes and their staunch opposition to online gaming.

Again, though, this doesn’t necessarily mean the possibility of sports betting in California is completely dead. Rather, it means the betting corporations will need to reconvene and prepare for another approach. With over $3 billion in potential revenue on the table, they almost certainly won’t be walking away quietly. FanDuel CEO Amy Howe even said at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas last month, “We absolutely live to fight another day,” referring to sports betting in California.

But how exactly could sports betting become legalized in California? After all, the measures didn’t just fail, they failed overwhelmingly, with the results currently trending toward an 80-20 split. Gary Painter is the executive director of the USC Homelessness Policy Research Institute. He says it will more than likely be on the 2024 ballot, but he’d prefer it go through California Legislature like it has in other states.

Gary Painter: What I’d like of our representatives who have some expertise in a variety of areas as it relates to California’s finances and etc. to actually come up with a law and then debate that law, and then that’s something that the governor can sign.

Whether it appears on the 2024 ballot or is handled by the state government itself, one thing is clear: betting corporations made a severe miscalculation in their expansion to California.