California Sports Betting Initiative Falters on First Hurdle

Sunny California won’t be among the US states that kick-start their sports betting market – not this year, at least.

The Pacific coast state will have to wait until at least 2020 because its initiative for regulating this gambling vertical failed on its very first step. The group called Californians for Sports Betting did not manage to obtain a sufficient amount of signatures in order to place the matter on the ballot.


The new sports betting bill’s introduction deadline expired last month according to state legislature.

Better Luck Next Year

The initiative did not suffer because it lacked time…

…quite the contrary: it was filed in June last year, merely a month after PASPA was overruled. Its objective was to place sports betting on the 2020 ballot where residents of California would vote on whether they’d like to see sports betting legalized or not.

Out of 623,000 signatures required by law, Californians for Sports Betting managed to obtain a grand total of – zero!

How did that come to be?

The Initiative Never Got off the Ground

Russel Lowery, the group’s consultant explains this strange phenomenon:

“We never advanced to get a single signature. It started a conversation in California gaming on what is the right path forward, and those conversations will continue until they figure out the puzzle.”

All Was Going in Tribes’ Favor

This state’s sports betting initiative aimed to find a common ground between tribal gambling operations and those in cardrooms. Namely…

…the idea was to have tribes and cardrooms both get sportsbook operations, with tribal casinos also having roulette and craps on offer.

However, CA tribes in general are not that eager to share the gambling market with cardrooms and other facilities…

…and are most definitely not accustomed to the proposal of opening new rounds of agreements with the state. They claim that sports betting revenue “isn’t worth putting their $8 billion industry at risk.” Tribes would prefer to have a monopoly on sports betting, instead of having cardrooms, racetracks and lottery kiosks offer it too.

Infamous Status

At the present moment, California is only one of 19 US states that do not have any form of sports betting legislation circulating.

There is another question at hand and that is of Indian gaming revenue which is plummeting sharply – in 2016, the California general fund received $330 million from tribal gaming, but this figure has dwindled to only $3.6 million since.

Another factor contributing to the initiative’s failure, San Diego Union Tribune argues, is that there was a major lack of donors and sponsors that were supposed to pay the manpower needed to collect signatures. According to Lowery, this initiative would require between $2 and $3 million.


“Proposed California Sports Betting Initiative Fails Before It Ever Starts”, Matthew Kreddell,, March 5, 2019.

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