Football is the most bet on sport in the US, and Fantasy Football leagues are in full swing right now. Competition is a natural imperative and a fun pastime in our country, and betting on who will win or lose can be enjoyable, too. Especially if you’re the winner. People spend a lot of time lining up their fantasy team, and watching what happens as the football season unfolds. Many fantasy football leagues are done with close friends in the spirit of camaraderie and yes, some competition.
To take the discussion of sports competition one step further, let’s look at the current Propositions 26 and 27, which both allow for legalized betting on sports in California and are both going to be on the ballot come November. The main difference between these two propositions is where betting will be allowed.
Major Revenue for California
Sports gambling in California is a potential multimillion-dollar revenue stream that is making the competition to dominate this arena very fierce. In a startling national record, there has been about $400 million so far spent on this ballot initiative fight! This battle for domination involves casinos, Native American tribes, Major League Baseball, and sportsbook companies such as DraftKings, and FanDuel.
The ads are everywhere and have been running for quite some time. Both propositions seem a little suspect as to how they will really benefit tribes or welfare programs in California, like addressing homelessness and mental health initiatives. The only clear winner here may be the state gaining revenue, as many US states have done since adopting this practice after sports betting was legalized nationally in 2018.
To make it clear, one or both of these propositions could pass. If both were to pass there could be a petition to the California Supreme Court to uphold the one with the greater majority vote. With either proposition, sports betting would not extend to college games.
A brief review of these two propositions indicates the following:
Proposition 26 would allow sports gambling to be conducted by tribal gaming institutions and at four horse racing tracks in the state. Proposition 26 is supported by a greater majority of local California tribes while proposition 27 seems to be opposed by many tribes, certainly the ones already involved in gaming. This is not supported by Republicans, and Dems are neutral on this one.
Proposition 27 would allow for sports betting online, from any device, and is being pushed by out-of-state national corporate gambling sites DraftKings, and FanDuel. This proposition could also benefit tribes that do not already have a gaming license. This is not supported by the Republican or Democratic party.
This proposition claims that it will benefit the homeless population in California and could offer support to those with mental health needs. The state would impose a 10% tax on adjusted gross gaming revenue, and 85% of that 10% amount would be diverted to homeless programs. While the overall revenue for sports betting in California could be in the hundreds of millions, the amount trickling down to these programs could likely still be a drop in the bucket to fight the homelessness battle.
Increased Gambling Addictions?
Meanwhile, there is much concern about the ease of digital gambling leading to more addiction. Being able to easily bet from any device as suggested in Prop 27, taken in conjunction with the fact that the dangerously addictive draw of gambling is in making multiple bets in one game as opposed to betting on the winner of a game, seems to spell trouble. Addiction is known to be a factor in homelessness, and gambling addiction has played some role in the cycle of homelessness, according to several studies.
In fact, a state audit of the Office of Problem Gambling in August found that the office had not effectively evaluated its programs, therefore it is unknown how big a problem Californians already have with gambling. These issues are discussed further in an article in California Healthline, which outlines the concerns that addiction experts have over the idea of online betting becoming a reality.
UCLA Gambling Studies
Concerns for both propositions are informed by findings from the UCLA Gambling Studies Program (UGSP) which has been researching these serious issues since 2006. There will even be a webinar, titled “The Impact of Sports Betting on California” on Friday, November 4, 2022, from 9 AM -12 PM. For more information, see uclagamblingprogram.org.
Maybe neither of these propositions is quite right for California, but Proposition 26 is likely the lesser of the evils and at least seems to keep more money in California. Sports competitions can be good clean fun but betting on sports maybe shouldn’t be so easy as to up the risk of gambling addiction and possibly increased homelessness.
It will be up to the people to decide what will happen with sports betting in California. For now, let’s just play ball.
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