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November Ballot For California Sports Betting Bill Unlikely

Find out about legal sports betting in California and what the removal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection act means for US states and sports fans


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Cliff Gill

In May 2018, the US Supreme Court struck down a federal law that bars gambling on football, basketball, baseball, and other sports in most states. This gave states the go ahead to legalize betting on sports. This decision could see sports betting becoming legal across the US. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) barred state-authorized sports gambling with some exceptions. Nevada was the only state where legal sports betting was allowed. The Supreme Court ruling could see sports betting become legal in 32 states within five years.

Justice Samuel Alito said, “The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make. Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own. Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent within the constitution. PASPA is not.”

The American Gaming Association estimates that Americans illegally wager around $150 billion on sports each year. Sports betting is legal in Canada and regulated by the provinces. The revenues are then put back into helping the provinces and this could happen in the US as well. Gambling on sports is a common past time for many sporting fans and being able to legally wager on football, basketball, hockey and more within their own state will prevent the abundance of illegal wagering that is happening every year.

#p All four major US professional sports leagues, the NCAA and the federal government had urged the court to uphold the Paspa and the NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB all argued that New Jersey’s gambling expansion would hurt the integrity of their games. Leaders of all these groups besides the NFL is open to legal sports betting and have demonstrated as much.


California Sports Betting Bill

There could be some difficulties ahead for California as they try to legalize sports betting. They have to meet the November ballot deadline and this might not be possible. Reports have suggested that they could be years away from implementing it.

New Jersey led the fight to allow sports betting and they are set to put regulations in place and begin sports betting within weeks. California however is just beginning the process that is required for state and regulatory approval and may not vote on the measure until 2020.

Assemblyman Adam Gray introduced a constitutional amendment allowing sports betting in California in 2017. This measure has yet to go to the assembly committee and requires two-thirds approval by the state Assembly and Senate, plus approval by Gov. Jerry Brown before it can go on a ballot. The deadline for the legislature to include constitutional amendments for the November 6 election is June 28. The sports betting measure would need to move at a rapid pace to meet this deadline.

The likely scenario for legal online sports betting in California is legislative approval in 2019 followed by inclusion on a ballot in 2020.


Legal Sports Betting in California

If sports betting is approved by votes it will be followed by a lengthy process of adopting rules and regulations. Entities such as racetracks, account-wagering providers, card clubs, Native American casinos, European bookmakers, and fantasy sports websites are among the groups that will be expected to look for licenses to conduct sports betting.

President and chief executive office of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, Greg Avioli, said that his organization is hoping to restrict the number of groups allowed to accept sports bets to racetracks, off-track satellites, card clubs, and Native American tribes in an effort to draw customers to existing betting locations. Avioli is the former president of the Breeders’ Cup said Native American representatives have said they have limited support for account wagering or internet-based companies joining the sports betting market in California.

The Stronach Group, parent company of California racetracks Golden Gate Fields and Santa Anita, is of a similar opinion. They described sports betting as a “perfect complement to the current wagering opportunities offered to our customers. The Stronach Group is supportive of legislation in California that would allow existing gaming facilities within the state to offer sports wagering to their customers.”

Chuck Winner, the racing board chairman, said he expects many groups, particularly fantasy sports websites, to see a share of the market. “There are so many players involved in how this should go down,” he said.

There is a likelihood that another regulatory agency could be formed in California to oversee sports betting other than the racing board. The existing constitutional amendment doesn’t have significant detail about regulatory policies, but the legislature could offer guidance and a timeline for implementation. Baedeker said, “We’re the only body that regulates wagering on sports. We have more experience than anyone else in the state. I think it’s probably likely that a new entity would be formed.”

A public discussion on sports betting in California will be held at a racing board meeting this summer.


Legal Gambling in the US

There are a number of states in the US that currently allow legal online gambling.

New Jersey is the largest market for regulated online gambling so far and has over a dozen legal online casinos and poker rooms. The overall market here is worth more than $225 million a year. The state’s online casinos are back by the same companies that operate land-based casino in Atlantic City.

Nevada was the pioneer in regulating online gambling in the US and they offer legal online poker as well as allowing residents to bet on sports using mobile apps. Delaware has legal online casino games and poker sites.

Delaware shares its online poker pool with Nevada and 888/WSOP is the only operator in both states. It will be pooling with New Jersey soon.

Pennsylvania is the forth and biggest state in the US to legalize and regulate online gambling. The state allows for online casinos, online poker, regulated daily fantasy sports, and more.


States Considering Legal Online Gambling

There are currently four states that are serious about legalizing online gambling - California for poker and sports betting, New York for online poker only as well as Massachusetts, and Michigan. With the removal of the Paspa we could see a lot more states joining this list too.

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