If you haven’t heard about the war over sports betting in California, you will soon By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports July 27, 2022 at 4:41 pm These days, perhaps the fastest way to wealth in the burgeoning world of legalized sports wagering isn’t coming up with a sure-fire handicapping system or even owning your own sports book. Instead, I’ll wager that the real money will be found by the advertising and production companies fortunate enough to represent either side of the brewing battle over legalization in California. After millions were poured into lobbying the state legislature, millions more are sure to be spent in the attempt to win voters’ hearts and minds as they approach the November ballot. While much of the rest of the nation, now nearly three dozen states, has embraced legalization or is about to, California has failed in several attempts to join the party. Like golfers searching for the last club in the bag, they’re down to dueling ballot initiatives. One, backed by gaming operators FanDuel, DraftKings, BETMGM, and Caesars, would legalize online/mobile sports betting in the state. The gaming operators have spent big — reported estimates exceed $200 million — to remain in the game. The other referendum, supported by the state’s sovereign indigenous tribes, would protect their compact interests and place sports wagering at their own casinos and select licensed race tracks. According to Ballotopia, the tribes are spending more than $30 million in the runup to Election Day. This week, part of that bankroll went into producing and airing a bruising attack ad against the “out-of-state corporations” intent on elbowing into what promises to be a wildly lucrative market. It takes the form of a response to an ad sponsored by the gaming companies, which uses a Native American spokesman to promote online wagering. The tribes have long enjoyed a compact that accords them exclusive rights to operate casino-style gambling in exchange for substantial contributions to the state. Per PlayCa.com, tribal casinos add nearly $20 billion to the state’s economy (an American Gaming Association number), generate about $8.5 billion in gross gaming revenue and $3.5 billion per year in taxes and revenue sharing to the state government, and provide 125,000 jobs to citizens on and off tribal lands. “Seen this ad? It’s not paid for by California tribes,” it begins. “It’s paid for by the out-of-state gambling corporations that wrote Prop 27. It doesn’t tell you 90 percent of the profits go to the out-of-state corporations.” While it can be argued that a 10% tax on profits isn’t so bad — Nevada’s is just 6.75% — proponents of Prop 27 remind skeptics that most (85% of the total) of the taxes collected are earmarked for the sort of programs that are in sore need of funding: problem gambling, public education, homelessness, affordable housing, and mental health. Native American tribal executives counter, “It’s simply bad policy to fund homelessness and mental-health programs by legalizing a massive expansion of online gambling that will only lead to further addiction and financial distress.” Going by the results of a February poll taken by the University of California Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, there hasn’t been overwhelming excitement over the prospects of legalizing sports betting in the state. Although 45% of those surveyed approved of the push to legalize sports gambling, 33% disagreed, with another 22% undecided. The survey of 4,477 Californians was taken in English and Spanish and had a 3% margin of error. Meaning? From the look of things, the ones most fired up about this idea are the ones promoting it and who will benefit most from its approval. Advocates on both sides of this issue have their work cut out for them.