California to Continue Discussions on Sports Betting Bill in January

  • ACA 16 to act as constitutional amendment allowing sports betting throughout the state
  • Bill complicated over Native American tribes' separate attempt to propose changes 
  • Original November hearing reportedly set back after California wildfires
  • Senator Dodd calls for holistic approach to bill, aims to include mobile betting
gambler betting on sports using laptop and mobile device
California is getting closer to a sports betting bill as a new hearing to discuss constitutional amendments is set to take place in January. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

The conversation continues

The conversation over whether sports betting can be introduced in California will continue in a new hearing scheduled for January 15, 2020. Next month’s hearing will take place following the scrapping of a previous hearing due to wildfires and amid objections from Native American tribes.

ACA 16 will act as a constitutional amendment to allow sports betting throughout the state

California’s gambling bill ACA 16 will act as a constitutional amendment to allow sports betting throughout the state. Local tribes are currently also filing other similar amendments.

2020 ballot pushes for sports betting

According to Senator Bill Dodd, the Chair of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee who sponsored the California gaming bill, he and his Assembly counterpart Adam Gray will continue to hold hearings over ACA 16. This is a 2020 ballot initiative that would amend the Constitution to allow for the regulation of sports betting.

To pass, the bill would require two-thirds support from the legislature at least 180 days prior to the November elections. So far, all other attempts have failed before reaching the ballot.

Dodd confirmed that the first sports betting hearing will take place in Sacramento. He also said there will be many further hearings before any framework is finalized and the bill is put forward in June.

Wildfires part of the hold-up

The first bill hearing was due to take place on November 20 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Two days before the date, eighteen Native American gaming tribes put forward their own ballot in the hope of amending the Constitution to allow sports betting at their casinos and racetracks.

Many believe it was the tribes who had stalled the hearing. Dodd confirmed instead that the setback was due to the raging wildfires that broke out in California at the time. Its rescheduling has since been fraught with problems.

Dodd not surprised by tribes

Dodd told Legal Sports Report that, while he had not been expecting the tribes’ bill, he was not surprised. He added:

They obviously have firm beliefs on what they see should be happening in this area, and that’s their right.”

Being a representative of all of California’s inhabitants, he feels the state should take a more holistic approach to the issue.

Early talks with the tribes to put together a more cohesive plan have not been greeted well. The tribes continue to exclude card rooms, which Dodd believes would limit state revenue from sports betting.

The senator observed: “When you look at all gaming interests in California – FanDuel, DraftKings, sports teams, cardrooms … and all these things – so many people were left out of this initiative. We’ve got to consider them as well as the racetracks and tribes.”

Mobile betting a big part of the bill

Dodd and Gray intend to establish online wagering and the short- and long-term problems of the gambling industry in the new bill.

Dodd also aims to include mobile wagering, having seen its success in sports betting markets such as New Jersey, where mobile betting makes up around 80% of all revenue.

He said: “I think if we don’t include mobile, then sports betting will remain in the shadows in the state of California. Part of our goal is to take it out of the shadows, tax it for the benefit of public schools and make sure problem gamblers get the help they need.”

Representatives from all gaming stakeholders, including the coalition of tribes, are expected to join Dodd and Gray in Sacramento, where all further hearings are set to take place. The plan is to have a full bill with specifics in place by March 2020.