Sports wagering expert offers ‘wait-and-see’ attitude on California ballot measure Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports · November 14, 2019 at 3:20 pm NASHVILLE – An Oklahoma State University business professor who tracks the sports betting industry said at the TribalNet conference this week he expects several states to place measures on the ballot in 2020 to legalize the activity in their state. He added he wasn’t surprised by California’s recently announced efforts. John Holden made his prediction during a panel discussion prior to nearly two dozen California tribes saying late Wednesday they would back a statewide measure in 2020 that would legalize sports betting at casinos and racetracks. Holden said Thursday morning, however, that he takes a-wait and see attitude going forward in 2020 because he doesn’t “put much stock” in such announcements any longer. “Anytime one side in California is interested in gambling expansion that’s a positive,” Holden said. “I think certainly having the tribes on board is better than some lone politician in the California Legislature.” Holden is cautious about California gambling expansion. Online poker has long been debated through various bills introduced by lawmakers but have never been enacted upon. “I think this is a positive step in movement towards sports gambling, but there are a lot of compact issues that go along with the constitutional amendment,” Holden said. “It’s a good first step, but I would like to see a few more steps before I start marking California down for 2020.” The California constitutional amendment would allow sports betting to take place in Indian casinos and at racetracks. Cardroom casinos, which have been at odds with tribal casinos, were not included in the measure. Wagering would be permitted on professional, college, or amateur sporting events, but the amendment would prohibit wagering on sporting events involving California colleges, as well as high school events. The proposal did not have any mention of mobile wagering and requires bettors to be physically present to place sports wagers. Also, the bill would allow Indian casinos in the state to offer craps and roulette. Not including card clubs in sports betting is one of the complications, Holden said. “Everything in California with gambling is super complicated.” The success of a Colorado sports betting measure that passed earlier this month and made it the 19th state to legalize it – with 13 up-and-running — should drive more states to pursue it, Holden said at TribalNet. Many states have legalized sports betting in their legislative chambers, but the next phase for many states is a public vote to take the next step — a process that had been slow so far. “As we move forward to 2020 and the election, we’re going to see a few more ballot measures in states where there are constitutional issues,” Holden said. “This is something we are going to see more of as states are at the point where they require a constitutional referendum to move forward.” But a ballot measure can be messy and lead to challenges and confusing outlooks because of how they are framed, he said. Holden said there are a lot of questions about the Colorado sports betting measure and how it will take shape. What complicates it was a pairing on the ballot with a measure. “You had people choosing what they wanted more,” Holden said. “We have seen it before with referendum questions that they come out to be a mess.” California has been a popular prediction to have a constitutional amendment. The amendment’s proposed provisions include a 10% tax on gross gaming revenues from sports wagering that would be directed toward public safety, mental health programs, education, and regulatory costs. “These are the starting points, and things will shake out over the coming months,” Holden said. “We will see more when we hear from the state.” Holden said he expects New York to do a ballot measure on legalizing mobile wagering and Kentucky, with its gambling ties to horse racing, to likely move forward although a ballot measure may be necessary. Tennessee approved mobile sports betting earlier this year and Ohio is expected to pass the activity in the Spring, putting pressure on Kentucky. “I think we will see some movement in Kentucky because their neighbors are interested, and you have the natural horse-racing connection in the state,” Holden said. “That would be a good cluster in that part of the country. I don’t see Oklahoma getting it next year. Compact negotiations are not off to a great start. I think we will see a prolonged positioning from each side.” During the panel discussion, Chalkline Sports CEO Dan Kustelski said casino operations with sports betting have experienced a 10% to 15% boost in revenues, which should encourage more adoption across the country, especially with tribal casinos. So far, only tribes in Mississippi and New Mexico offer sports betting.