California sports betting boils down to Propositions 26 and 27

An Account of California and the Wonderful Gold Regions Title Page
Getty Images

As legalized sports betting continues to sweep the nation, the states that host the most NFL franchises (California and Florida, three each) continue to defer their gambling on football to the barroom bookies.

In both states, prior deals with Native American tribes have made the situation a political hot potato, as the existing gambling interests try to fend off a tidal wave that is otherwise sweeping the nation.

For California, the fight has landed on the ballot, in the form of two propositions: 26 and 27.

The former favors the tribes. If passed, it would allow “on-site sports wagering at only privately operated horse-racing tracks in four specified counties,” with the tribes in full control of the wagering. It also would expand the table games permitted in tribal casinos, with roulette wheels and craps tables being installed.

Proposition 27 opens the floodgates for online and mobile sports wagering. It would allow the likes of FanDuel, DraftKings, and BetMGM to apply for licenses. As noted by Bill King of Sports Business Journal, any sports book that wants to do business in California must be licensed in at least 10 other states.

There’s another significant wrinkle. Even though the tribal interests oppose Proposition 27, any sports book that does business in California must give a significant taste to the tribes. The price of a license could be, per King, $100 million.

That’s also the estimated amount that each side will spend on the fight over Proposition 27. Still, that’s peanuts in the grand scheme of things. The most populous state in the country would generate billions in tax revenue. (Already, billions in California tax revenue have been lost in each of the four years since the Supreme Court allowed all states to embrace sports wagering.)

As explained recently by Brad Allen of, the tribes oppose Proposition 27 for multiple reasons. They claim that they’ve been promised sovereignty over gambling in California. They also are pushing the contention that Proposition 27 would turn every phone, computer, and tablet into a gambling device, making it harder to ensure responsible gambling. (That argument would have a bit more credibility if the tribes weren’t also trying to score the ability to offer in-person sports betting, and to otherwise protect their own gambling turf.) They also fear that online and mobile sports betting will eventually become online and mobile casinos, which would take money away from the tribal-owned in-person casinos.

King explains that the California Democratic Party will oppose Proposition 27, and that it will take no position on Proposition 26. This speaks to the deeper push-and-pull that will make yet another political issue into not what the people want but what the politicians think the politicians need.

Regardless, the voters will have a chance to cast a ballot on both propositions. If California wants to stay with the times — and to capture billions that otherwise are being wagered legally across state lines or illegally from Siskiyou County to San Diego and all points in between — the voters will embrace both Proposition 26 and Proposition 27.

It would be different if the fight were focused on the philosophical or moral issues arising from gambling. It’s not. It’s about local interests trying to retain the revenue and influence they enjoy, to the detriment of the state’s tax revenues and the citizens’ ability to engage in activities that are embraced in an ever-expanding number of states.

The irony, of course, is that the state that routinely has been viewed of being ahead of the times is already lagging. If Proposition 27 fails, California could end up being left in the dust of a new gold rush that would prompt Horace Greeley to make a one-word revision to his classic mantra.

Go East, young man.

10 responses to “California sports betting boils down to Propositions 26 and 27

  1. I hope the Golden State leaves the wagering activity to the Tribal Councils. Texas has punted on legalizing sports betting…The bookies rejoice!

  2. A federal judge overturned a Florida law that gave gambling control to the Seminoles.

  3. As a CA who does not care either way, both seem to fail – most CA just vote NO on poorly written propositions.

    Te ad against 27 is straight forward and compelling – anyone can click to gamble and nearly all the money is going to non CA companies.

    The ads for 27 are pretty lame. They found one CA tribe who has no casinos and claims the money will go to them and the homeless. My guess is no one believes that message.

    I have yet to see an ad for or against 26 but I’m sure they’re coming.

    Like I said, at the end of the day, easy just to tick no on both. And taht most people who bother to vote on this will vote no, I’m not sure rabid bettors really care enough.

    AND because people who are betting now will just call their bookies or they have an account in Vegas. In CA, we are literally 1-hour by plane to Vegas, AN EASIER DRIVE ACROSS TOWN during commute hours so hardly anyone cares. Plus, you get a weekend in Vegas. Yes, it’s slightly easier than getting drunk and tapping your screen but it’s also no weekend in Vegas. PLus, you have the “gangsta” halo of having access to something illegal like smoking pot 5 years ago …

    So, until you get a CA based company to do it, I’d say the odds are pretty slim …

  4. If California wants to pass sports betting, just hire Trump to do a commercial saying vote No to sports betting and the liberal loons will flock to the polls to do the opposite of what he said.

  5. I don’t think the tribes have done anything to deserve total control over wagering anywhere in CA. They got their casinos. They are wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. It’s all just greed, on both sides. Gambling is like drugs and pornography. A serious country would not allow them. This is similar to Cannabis. States jumped on the bandwagon to collect tax revenues that are not what they were supposed to be. meanwhile, millions of young men drift aimlessly, addicted to marijuana and porn, unmotivated to work. This was exacerbated by giving them money during covid. Drugs, porn, and gambling is no way to build a healthy society. Don’t forget about the gender identity agenda. In case you haven’t noticed, this is a very unhealthy society. Sick would be a more accurate word. It’s strip mall America, and it’s almost over. The Brazilification is almost complete.

  6. Gambling is a fools paradise. It’s the road to poverty and more homelessness. Completely unnecessary. There is always Vegas, Tahoe, Reno, TJ.

  7. As another Californian commenting here, I see zero reason to grant Native Tribal exclusivity. That’s just silly. They already have plenty of competition and thrive. Unless you live there n stop-and-go traffics c heavy LA or San Francisco, one is less than an hour’s drive from some Tribal cases no already. And Vegas or Reno are constantly advertising to us next door neighbors.

    But even because of that we also don’t need additional gambling services. The Stye already runs a huge surplus and we don’t need excuses to make government any bigger. And we already have seen this tax benefit clap trap before with the lotto. Just tell the Tribal councils to pair up with the NFL and call it a day.

  8. California will pass anything that is even modestly corrupt. We like it like that.

  9. Let them wager!! Why should the native’s enjoy a monopoly I say pass both referendums freedom of choice of platform to lose you pass on the NFL!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.