California Sports Betting Faces Tough But Not Impossible Road

California is the fifth largest economy on earth — if you carved it from the US — but is still at the 20th Century regarding gaming law.
Having a projected first-year tax revenue of $100 million, an individual would feel that California would want to have sports betting legalized as swiftly as possible. But…it could be five decades, if not longer, before sports gambling is headquartered in the nation.
Much of the challenge is the lack of understanding of this land, and the way the stakeholders interact with each other and the state authorities. Hopefully this article will clear some of the smoke from the area.
Because it is the next sector this decade which has flipped from illegal to controlled, California already has some expertise in that respect. I’ll try to decode here what the issues are, in the hope that better comprehension of those issues will help reach some win/win for all parties involved as economically as possible.
The lay of this property for California sports gambling Present-day stakeholders in CA gaming include these 3 things:
Horse racing tracks
The cardrooms
Cardrooms are legal since 1936 (draw poker; hold’em along with other poker games have been held to be lawful in 1987, player-banked table games were legal at 1988). In all three cases, the cardrooms needed to go to court, challenge the nation’s gambling statute, and win.
They are subject to state regulation, that has been criticized (and justly so, in my opinion) by tribal gambling interests. They are a politically powerful enough group, but light compared to the governmental power that the tribes have in California.
Tribal gaming
Tribes initially offered bingo, then after winning the landmark Cabazon instance in 1987, which led to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, proceeded to slot machines, player-banked table games between cards (house-banked card games in 1993), and finally went into the electorate to have their casinos completely legal in 2000. The ballot initiative, Prop 1A, amended the California Constitution as follows:
The Legislature has no power to authorize, and shall prohibit, casinos of the type currently operating in Nevada and New Jersey. (Art. IV, Sec. 19 (e))
The tribes (or rather, their lawyers and lobbyists) have interpreted this to mean that they have a monopoly on anything which might be offered in a casino, which might include things like sports betting.
While horse racing is usually considered to be a mature industry, with two major paths final in the previous ten years since the land was more precious put to housing and other uses, it is still a favorite pastime for a lot in California, and the horsemen have political clout as well.
How they intersect
As you might expect, the three stakeholders don’t enjoy each other.
The real stakeholders, naturally, would be the people of California, who would probably see tax revenues exceeding $100 million from the initial year of performance, and upwards of this as the market evolves.
On the other hand, the CA state budget is about $180 billion annually, so what’s relative. One would think there is enough cash to move around this time, which wasn’t true with internet poker, which a minority of California tribes managed to conquer in the legislature on a nine-year (and counting) period.
A short legislative history of sport betting in California
Sports betting has been discussed at the legislature for nearly two years now. Early in 2016, Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced), who’s also chair of the Assembly’s Governmental Organizational Committee (which manages, among other things, gaming in the state) introduced AB 1573, which could produce a frame for offering sports gambling.
The invoice has been rather vanilla concerning regulation: service providers licensing using a stakeholder to provide services. For a lot of reasons, including the national sports betting ban was intract in the time, the bill never got past a reading, nor was there any type of informational hearing on the situation.
Assemblyman Gray returned in 2017 using ACA 18, which will change the California Constitution to allow the legislature to govern sports gambling. This also went nowhere, although it’s interesting to note that Gray may or may not have needed his own deadline backwards.
Normally, with respect to gambling growth in California, you will need the electorate to approve a ballot proposal , then the legislature would write and approve regulations for it. There may or might not be a suggestion here that lawmakers believed it originally would not require voter approval to promulgate sports gambling regulations.
Changing the constitution?
Finally, a group called”Californians For Sports Betting” declared it would be attempting to get an initiative to the 2020 ballot which would repeal the above clause approved by the electorate in 2000.
The very first ballot proposal sought to strike down Article IV, Sec 19 (e) of the California Constitution. I initially thought this ballot proposal was sponsored by a sportsbook, because nobody with understanding of how California politics functions would understand that the tribes could spend upwards of $100 million, and not batting an eye on the checks, to conquer this step and protect their land interests.
What this accomplished was the following:
It irritated the tribes , they used their political power to get any hearings canceled on the topic, so effectively killing any laws for 2018.
The step also annoyed the cardroom business, because it preempted anything they had been attempting to achieve with sports gambling, and because many tribes (wrongly) would think that the cardrooms were supporting the invoice (they were not ). There is not a great deal of trust right now between the cardrooms and the sportsbook operators.
There’s a fear among both a few tribes and a few cardroom operators that the sportsbooks could just sweep in and dominate the gaming business, and need to know more before deciding how to move. Whether this fear is rationally based isn’t relevant.
A rewrite of the ballot measure
The promoters did rewrite the initiative a couple of months afterwards, which abandoned Art IV, Sec 19 (e) unchanged, but limiting the governor from negotiating compacts with tribes that want to run off-reservation gaming (which most tribes likely would support), and immediately authorizing the legislature to govern sports betting, in the way suggested by Gray’s 2016 AB 1573.
So, the present version of the ballot initiative looks more like it had been written by a party with some sophistication as to how gaming works in California, or at least gained some help on the situation.
Finally, I’d anticipate some version of the prior ACA 18 or AB 1573, or maybe both, to surfaced soon after the legislature reconvenes following the holidays.
Who will get to split the cash, and when?
The stumbling block in all this is an unnecessary struggle regarding who gets to own the game.
The tribes originally tried to play with the card, but realizing that the monitors are just too powerful to be excluded, enlisted them in an alliance against the cardrooms.
Moreover, it’s not a fantastic look to say you’re against sports gambling, as a few tribes and tribal assistants have stated, once you’re not just remodeling your unprofitable off-track-betting facility, you’re marketing the joys of it also. In equity, tribal interests are not necessarily aligned with this problem, based upon the tribe. As you are going to see, there’s going to be something here for everybody who’s invested in this to hate.
The biggest problem, as I see California, is that you have two big entities that operate gaming companies with substantial political power, but really don’t know either gaming nor the casino enterprise.
Cardrooms and tribes stand to benefit Cardrooms can not have some interest in the results of any arrangement in their cardroom. Moreover, though some operators fantasize about being able to bank their own matches (and hence eliminate the (Third-Party Providers of Proposition Player Services or TPPPS), the reality is that particular learning curve is going to be steep and probably very expensive. Game protection is an entirely different animal when it’s your bankroll at stake.
Tribal members get a test, and if they are lucky, a healthy check, each month from gaming revenues, but don’t really know how that check is generated. Thus, you’ve got two related, controlled industries that are fundamentally mom and pop businesses, no matter the size of these, that generally rely upon other people to inform them how to conduct their businesses.
The tribes generally are happy with the status quo and leary of anything but, and that’s certainly understandable.
There are not any visionary Jack Binion or even Terry Lanni clones in tribal gaming or the cardroom market. What confusion which comes from that is definitely understandable. Unfortunately, this brings in several of actors that don’t necessarily have their customers or investors best interests at heart.
No Lack of unsympathetic parties
The tribes, for the most part, rely upon their corporate attorneys and lobbyists, that, for the large part, oblige them by treating them like ATM machines, selling unneeded, unnecessary, and most importantly, unwinnable conflict.
The most recent growth is a suit filed last month by two Southern California tribes from numerous cardrooms, asserting that they are running banked table games from violation of their so-called monopoly on table games.
The first issue is that if this is accurate, they’re suing the wrong people; their beef is with the state. The next problem is that if you are going to sue the State over breach of compact (the appropriate filing and also cause of activity here), that lawsuit always is heard in federal court. As there’s a failure to join a necessary party to the lawsuit (the State of California) which likely will not consent to be sued in state court, the likely outcome is probably that the issue will be dismissed on procedural grounds.
Effective regulation?
On the flip side, you have a range of”old school” cardroom investors who keep score by how much they could create, but by how far they can get over. You’ve got a couple of operators that honestly shouldn’t, in my view, maintain gaming licenses, and the tribes’ complaints into the country in their inability to regulate (read”discipline”) those operators is a legitimate one.
Additionally, it fairly begs the question whether the state is suitably equipped to actually enforce bad behaviour (instead of allowing the miscreants write a test to”settle” the accusations). If they can’t reverse a licensee for egregious anti-money laundering offenses, it makes one wonder if they could fairly regulate a company which manages substantially more money.
The tribes have fought the cardrooms for a number of years on the so-called player-banked game issue. Cardrooms, due to California legislation, can provide table games, as long as the players charge the matches rather than the house. Services known as TPPPS will charge the games when nobody wants to. The occurrence of these companies is at root the center and spirit of the meat that the tribes have with the nation.
They claim that they have a”monopoly” on table games and slot machines, where the fact is that they have neither. They know this, too. For many years, they have threatened all kinds of litigation.
The issue is, any lawsuit against the State of California would always occur in federal court, and not say. Why is this important? With a US District Court judge, which will be an appointed for life standing, the judgment is going to be about the legislation, and just the law, rather than the governmental triangulation elected state court judges often offer as a guise to interpreting the law.
To get past motion in federal court, you’re going to need to prove you have been hurt; in other words, you’re likely to have to prove you actually have a monopoly. Hanging your hat on a vaguely written part of the state constitution is a surefire way to sabotage what monopoly may exist within your own mind.
While courts have used the term”monopoly” in their opinions regarding tribal gambling in California, there has been no explicit grant of a monopoly by the electorate. The constitutionality of Art IV Sec 19 (e) hasn’t been contested, in my view the clause is murky, particularly in light that the tribes could have choosen more direct speech in composing the ballot proposal.
Moreover, from the lawsuit which has previously happened, it has been by individual members of tribes suing as individuals, utilizing some creative methods for getting their grievances aired in (state) court. So, looking at things from a purely historical fashion, the tribes probably know precisely where they’re at with this.
The truth is CA sports gambling There are four problems that are real and static.
The convenience Element To begin with, cardroom clients are almost always customers of convenience. Consider the man who’d rather shop at 7-Eleven (bad choice, high prices) than the Safeway, since the 7-Eleven goes across the road and he must drive ten minutes into the Safeway.
Most gamblers just want to be in action whenever possible. That is the reason why a gambler who lives in Alhambra, east of downtown Los Angeles, that is maybe 45 minutes out of San Manuel, among the greatest locals casinos everywhere, would rather drive the 15 minutes to Commerce Casino, even though the comforts are poor and the price of gambling is a lot higher.
Therefore, even if a number of those table games went off , the cardroom customer would probably just return to playing with the traditional player-banked games (i.e. Pai gow tiles, Pai gow poker, etc) or poker. Yes, cardroom earnings would fall marginally but the tribes could get very little of that. Definitely not any the millions they’ve spent with the attorneys and lobbyists on this specific issue up to now, for certain.
Second, the actual complaint that the tribes have with the cardrooms online sports betting, is about the actual estate. The cardrooms, which the bigger ones are almost exclusively in metropolitan areas, the real estate favors the cardrooms.
With any debut of sport gambling, it’s possible that the path will duplicate what other jurisdictions have done before: roll out the product as land-based only to start. This is about to the tribes, but perhaps they don’t have any reason to worry about Let’s take the person who resides in West LA, would he prefer to drive 20-30 minutes to Hollywood Park (or a bit longer to Gardena or the Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens) or at least double that period to San Manuel, Pechanga or Chumash to make a wager?
This isn’t really business the tribes are receiving anyway, and you’re almost certainly losing business due to it. Very similar to the table games difficulty, in my opinion.
What’s the plan?
Third, it is pretty clear the sportsbooks do not have a strategy for California, at least yet. Exhibit A are the first ill-advised ballot proposition, which killed any possibility of getting the matter to the voters in 2018, and certainly didn’t help things for 2020 and possibly beyond.
Many European operators are online just; the idea of doing retail (walkup, traditional) mortifies a number of these. However, they’re also natural partners for the cardrooms, as in any legislation that goes through, the cardrooms probably wouldn’t have the ability to take bets themselves, and could be consigned to charging to their operator-tenant.
So, some of this delay in the process is technology-driven, or rather the inability of some contemporary online operators to run a”conventional” sportsbook. However, some operators have walkup novels in Nevada, the united kingdom, along with other authorities and can surely use their experience to a competitive edge if and when California opens to business.
Ultimately, and most importantly in my opinion, unlike the battle to receive internet poker legalized, there is more than enough money to go around. Pretax revenue to get a mature California market, retail books simply, was projected to approach $1 billion, or roughly 40 times that which online poker has been estimated to earn.
In a ten percent tax rate, which is a reasonable one for all parties involved, tax earnings could approach $100 million.
Suggestion box
Though the legislature has traditionally deferred to the stakeholders to hammer out their own deal and get back to these, perhaps its time for the legislature to legislate more aggressively rather than defer, due to the quantity of potential tax revenue involved.
As mentioned in the beginning, the actual stakeholders in this are the people of the State of California, and as such they’re owed a duty by the individuals who represent them in Sacramento to find this matter to ballot as economically as you can. Especially as there will be layers in this, because of the underlying previous disputes, the legislature would be well advised to be proactive this time around.

Read more: