SAN DIEGO — Two measures facing the voters of California focus on sports betting: Proposition 26 would allow it at Native American casinos and horse tracks and Proposition 27 would take it a step farther and allow online gaming.
People for these propositions say a yes vote will create much-needed tax revenue for the state of California. Opponents believe it could create gambling addiction, especially among young people.
“I’m very hesitant to think that introducing gambling is going to promote or produce a huge revenue stream that is graciously falling into the lap of the citizens,” said Dr. Matthew Bruhin, a psychotherapist and addiction specialist. “I also don’t think it will open a Pandora’s box of pure evil.”
Dr. Bruhin has spent more than two decades helping people in San Diego with addiction issues – including gambling.
He also has an office in Tennessee, which legalized sports gambling – and online wagering – in November of 2020. Two years in, Dr. Bruhin says no one can say whether the increased opportunity in Tennessee has led to an increase in gambling addiction.
“There’s not enough research out yet that is distinctly related to gambling,” Dr. Bruhin said.
If Prop 26 passes in California, it will allow adults over 21 to wager on sporting events at brick and mortar locations like tribal casinos and horse tracks – in addition to allowing roulette and dice games at the tribal casinos.
Prop 27 would allow mobile wagering.
“It’s a measure that has been written by the sports books, essentially, to go before the voters, as opposed to a measure created by the legislature by elected officials,” said Covers.com sports betting journalist Geoff Zochodne.
Zochodne says online sportsbooks like DraftKings and FanDuel pushed the proposition onto the ballot and would give the state 10% of the revenue.
Other states have used a similar model and Zochodne says revenue varies state to state. For instance, Arizona announced it had brought in more than $18 million since the launch in the fall of 2021. The State of New York can bring in $18 million per week, because that state taxes online sports gambling at 50%.
The cost of that revenue, some say, is that every mobile device will become a gambling device.
“I will agree that having it on a phone certainly gives you more access,” Dr. Bruhin said. “But just because you have access, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to fall into that hole.”
Early polling numbers show Prop 26 and Prop 27 falling short of the necessary votes to pass.
But even if it fails this time, Zochodne says odds are good it will come up again in 2024.
“That just suggests the importance of the California market to these operators,” Zochdone said. “It’s such an important economy they want to tap into. It has a huge fanbase for sports and major league sports. Even the integrity measures included in Prop 27 prompted Major League Baseball to come forward and saw we like these measures and support them, which is kind of a unique thing. No other league has taken that step.”
The California constitution says if two measures on the same ballot conflict, and they both pass, then the one with higher percentage goes into effect and the other does not.
To try to avoid such a dilemma, the authors of Prop 27 wrote a line that read: Proposition 27 does not conflict with Proposition 26.
Even so, if they both pass, a court battle would likely ensue to determine whether or not they conflict.