California Voters Move to Legalize Online Sports Betting


Leslie Chen, Staff Writer

Sports betting on professional or college sports teams is currently not legal in California, but that may soon change with a new bill. On May 3, California (CA) Solutions, a group pushing to legalize online sports betting, announced that they have garnered 1.6 million signatures, surpassing the required threshold to send the initiative to November’s ballot. 

The CA Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Act, funded by betting giants like DraftKings and BetMGM, will allow gaming companies and Native American tribes to provide online sports betting all across the state. But in order to do business, companies will also have to pay a $100 million licensing fee, or be operating in five states and running 12 casinos. The fee, according to the initiative’s campaign, is necessary to ensure “safe and responsible operation.” 

The online betting measure will also implement a 10% tax on all companies or tribes that offer sports betting. About 85% of the tax dollars will be sent to homelessness and mental health groups, while 15% would go to tribes not participating in online sports betting. Estimates suggest that the 10% tax could raise $500 million annually.

Proponents of the proposition point out how the initiative will generate much-needed revenue for homeless and mental health groups, without raising tax dollars on CA residents. 

“Instead of leaving funding for homelessness and mental health services up to the whims of the economy, this initiative will create a stable and reliable funding source to tackle these immense challenges,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. “If passed, this initiative will help countless Californians in times of crisis.”

Meanwhile, critics of the initiative say that online sports betting prioritizes companies over Californians.

“Having betting so readily available is going to harm a lot of Californians, especially those who have gambling problems,” said Harrison Miller, a Gamblers Anonymous organizer. “Those casinos are getting billions in revenue if this passes [while] the state only gets a fraction of that. I mean, look who is backing [it]– all companies who stand to make a fortune.”

A second initiative, titled Tribal Sports Wagering Act, is also on its way to November’s ballot. If passed, it would allow in-person sports betting at tribal casinos and four race tracks.

If any of these initiatives passes, CA will join more than 30 states in legalizing betting for sports. Sports betting is an incredibly lucrative industry, and estimates suggest $3.57 billion can be generated annually if online or in-person betting is legalized.

“I think this initiative is a good way to raise money for homeless and mental health organizations,” said senior Hannah Mohammadi. “But there are obviously concerns like minors accessing accounts or gambling addictions that can be a problem.”

The measure will be voted upon on Nov. 8, and if it receives more than 50% in support, it’s likely that online sports betting will soon become a reality in CA.

Photo courtesy of UNSPLASH.COM