California Online Sports Betting Measure More Than 50 Percent Toward Signature Goal

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California Online Sports Betting Measure More Than 50 Percent Toward Signature Goal

A proposed initiative asking Californians to legalize online sports betting hit a key milestone Thursday toward getting on November’s ballot.

Mookie Betts
Mookie Betts
Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Mookie Betts celebrates as he rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the San Francisco Giants in a May 5 game at Dodgers Stadium. A proposal to legalize online sports betting in California has more than half the signatures it needs verified to get on the November ballot, and officials still have signatures to check from Los Angeles and other large Southern California communities. (Image: Mark J. Terrill/AP)

According to the latest figures released by the California Secretary of State’s office, election officials across the state have verified that 22,913 signatures have come from registered voters out of a random 29,494 signatures checked. Based on that, the Secretary of State’s office is projecting that 578,799 signatures are valid. That’s more than half of the 1,096,853 signatures supporters need to get the measure on the Nov. 8 ballot.

California law requires any constitutional amendment initiative to get at least 997,139 valid signatures from registered voters. However, proponents of the initiative can ask for a random sample check instead of a full review. In that case, the number of projected valid signatures must meet the nearly 1.1 million threshold, representing an additional 10% needed for approval.

The group, “Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support,” submitted petitions with nearly 1.6 million signatures to elections officials last month.

Officials have until June 27 to finish their random checks.

Major Counties Remain to be Counted

There are still 23 counties that have to submit their data to the state. That includes the three counties where supporters gathered the most signatures – Los Angeles (418,053 signatures), San Diego (134,833), and Riverside (116,277). How “Californians for Solutions” fares in those counties will likely determine whether the measure makes the ballot, as those three counties represent 42.7% of the signatures gathered.

On Thursday, officials in Orange County, which had the fourth-highest total of signatures at 114,595, verified 2,657 out of a random sample of 3,438. That equates to 88,563 signatures that are projected to be valid, or 77.3% of signatures gathered.

If the signatures gathered in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Riverside counties match the statewide validity average of 74.6%, then that would put proponents within 20,000 signatures of their goal, with 20 counties remaining to be counted. If those three counties match Orange County’s percentage, then supporters would need less than 800 out of the remaining counties.

Should it make the ballot, it would mean California voters would likely have two sports betting measures before them. Last year, the state’s tribal leaders succeeded in their petition drive to seek brick-and-mortar sportsbooks at tribal casinos and the state’s four thoroughbred racetracks. There is a legal challenge to the measure, brought on by state-licensed cardroom casinos, regarding other provisions in the tribal measure. But a similar case has already been dismissed once.

Sports Betting Battle Likely for November

If passed, the “Californians for Solutions” would allow online sports betting operators to pay $100 million for a license to offer wagering in the largest US state. Besides the very steep licensing fee, the measure also stipulates that applicants must be licensed in 10 other states, or five states if they operate 12 Class III casinos.

The measure would also allow the state’s tribal gaming operators to get a license for $10 million. But those licenses would be limited in how they could brand themselves.

“Californians for Solutions” proposes to use the tax money generated from online sports betting to provide funding for services to the state’s homeless community and shore up mental health programs. It also would set aside funding for tribal economic development initiatives. Sports betting operators have pledged to spend $100 million in a campaign to get the measure passed by voters.

Despite including tribal gaming operators in the initiative, tribal leaders have spoken out against the measure, and have set up their own group as they look to influence voters to support their measure. The two measures have led to local officials, business groups, labor unions, and other civic organizations to take positions for or against either bill.

It’s possible for both measures to be approved by voters. But if that’s the case, tribal casinos would likely see little revenue from sports betting. In other states that allow both online and retail sportsbooks, online is by far the dominant option, attracting upwards of 80% or more of the handle.

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