California Senator Pulls Sports Betting Bill Ahead of Vote

  • Proposed SCA 6 was facing pressure from gaming tribes and tight legislature deadlines
  • Measure was set for Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on June 23
  • Senator Dodd also cited COVID-19 as stumbling block to issue's progress 
  • Bill would have needed full legislature approval by June 25 to be put to public vote
businessman tears up papers as colleague expresses surprise
Senator Bill Dodd has pulled a sports betting legalization bill he was sponsoring in California as it faced strong opposition from the state’s tribal operators. [Image:]

Progress of proposed bill halted

A sports betting measure that was progressing in California was pulled by one of its sponsors in the wake of strong opposition from tribal gaming operators and looming legislative deadlines. 

California Senator Bill Dodd announced the decision on June 22, just one day before Senate Constitutional Amendment 6 (SCA 6) was set for a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing. He informed that a diverse range of stakeholders had to be considered as part of sports betting legalization.

the impact of Covid-19 on the public’s ability to weigh in”

Dodd added: “Given the deadlines for getting a measure on the November ballot and the impact of Covid-19 on the public’s ability to weigh in, we were not able to get the bill across the finish line this year.” Dodd committed to continuing to work on the issue in the coming years.

Setback for legal sports betting

Dodd’s decision represents a setback for legal sports betting in California. The earliest that voters could now vote on a bill similar to SCA 6 would be November 2022, according to another sponsor of the legislation, Assemblyman Adam Gray.

earliest that voters could now vote on a bill similar to SCA 6 would be November 2022

SCA 6 proposed allowing retail and online sports betting in the state through racetracks and tribal casinos. It also intended to give the state’s card rooms a constitutional right to offer certain house-banked games, such as blackjack. The tribes vehemently opposed the card room concessions, maintaining that any such constitutional right would violate the tribes’ right to exclusively offer these types of games. 

It was hoped that this form of legal sports betting would generate at least $500m annually for the state, with 10% tax on retail gross revenue and 15% for online wagering.

SCA 6 would have had to get approval in both the House and the Senate by June 25 if it was to make it onto the November ballot for a public vote. Only the approval of a supplemental ballot by the Secretary of State would have extended the legislative deadline to consider the bill until the middle of July. 

Tribes push their own measure

A tribal gaming group in California, called the Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering, is looking to progress its own sports betting measure. It is in the process of collecting signatures to get the issue put to a public vote.

It claims to have gotten almost one million signatures for its petition to allow retail sports betting at tribal casinos and racetracks in the state before the pandemic halted their efforts. The group has sued the state in the Superior Court of California in an attempt to get a deadline extension to collect the required number of signatures.

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