California Sports Betting Not Making Headway with Voters

Estimated read time 3 min read

California sports betting isn’t making much headway with state voters this year. That’s compared to the 2022 election cycle in which a pair of sports betting ballot initiatives were soundly defeated in the state.

A Welcome to California sign on Interstate 10. Polling data indicates California voters still aren’t enthusiastic about sports betting. (Image: Spiritofamerica/Adobe Stock Images)

That could be further confirmation that the introduction of two sports betting proposals last month could prove ill-fated and that the appetite among voters simply isn’t there to reconsider the issue in the 2024 election.

According to FM3 Research, a California-based polling firm, just 13% of California voters strongly support bringing regulated sports betting to the state, and 17% somewhat support it. That compares to 13% and 15%, respectively, in November 2022. So in a year, total support for sports betting in the largest state is up a mere 2%.

Likewise, total opposition has declined by the same amount, while 7% of voters remained undecided. In the most recent poll, the percentage of California voters somewhat opposing sports wagering increased to 17% from 16% a year earlier, while those in the “strongly oppose” camp declined to 46% from 49%, according to FM3. That confirms what Tribal gaming leaders in the state have been saying in recent weeks: Golden State voters simply aren’t interested in sports wagering at this time.

Tribes Oppose Recent Efforts

The “Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act” and the “Tribal Gaming Protection Act” were filed last month by Pala Interactive co-founders Kasey Thompson and Reeve Collins. Tribal gaming leaders in California said they weren’t apprised of those plans prior to the filings.

That oversight drew a quick rebuke from some of the state’s Tribal casino entities, and could prove to be a significant misstep because alterations to Class III gaming in California simply don’t occur without Tribes being involved. Data confirm Tribes oppose the aforementioned measures.

At least a dozen polls have shown the California voter is not ready for retail. That tends to poll even worse for online,” said James Siva, chairman of the California Nationals Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA), on a November 22 webcast.

Siva added that last week, 18 California Tribes with gaming interests in the state voted against the pair of sports betting plans, with five abstaining and none voting in favor of the pitches. Twenty-one of CNIGA’s 52 member Tribes signed a letter opposing the proposals.

Time Not on the Side of Betting

The deadline for the backers of the “Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act” and the “Tribal Gaming Protection Act” to gather comments from the public was Monday, and the due date for amendments is December 1.

Those are tight windows, and even if they’re met, it doesn’t mean the Tribes will change their tune. California tribes are currently irked by the selling point of somehow bringing black market sportsbook operators doing business in California out of the shadows. That’s a complex maze to navigate and one that could threaten Tribal sovereignty.

Some California Tribal gaming leaders have overtly stated that sports betting in the state is a 2026 issue, at the earliest, and that mobile betting is further out than that.

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