Chances for Calif. Sports Betting Vote Good as Verification Deadline Nears

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Posted on: May 22, 2021, 11:40h. 

Last updated on: May 22, 2021, 11:40h.

With a Wednesday deadline looming for a final verified count, proponents to get a sports betting initiative before California voters appear to have enough signatures – if election officials can finish the count in time.

California Sports Betting
The Graton Resort and Casino in Rohnert Park, Calif., could be able to offer sports betting if California voters approve a referendum allowing it in the nation’s most populous state. A deadline to verify signatures to approve the referendum is Wednesday, and it appears proponents may have more than enough signatures to get the measure on a ballot. The state’s tribal gaming nations led the petition drive. (Image: Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria)

According to information from the California Secretary of State’s office, 771,992 signatures have been verified out of the slightly more than 1 million that have been checked. There remain 400,690 signatures left to verify. Officials need to verify 225,147 of those by Wednesday in order to meet the threshold of 997,139 valid signatures.

On Friday, Los Angeles County – the state’s largest – reported its results. Of the 394,699 raw signatures, 298,504, or 75.6 percent, were deemed valid.

Of the state’s 58 counties, only seven have yet to turn in results. That includes San Diego, where 160,234 signatures need to be checked; Riverside, with 85,956 signatures; and Sacramento, which has 74,605 signatures to verify. If those three counties can verify 70.8 percent of their signatures, that will be enough to get the measure on the ballot.

The current statewide average for the petitions is 75.2 percent.

Other counties still outstanding are Kern (35,884 raw signatures), San Joaquin (24,895), Santa Cruz (7,810), and Sonoma (11,306).

Deadline to Verify Signatures Extended

Initially, the signature verification process faced a deadline of April 22. However, on April 16, the registrars for Los Angeles and San Diego counties told a state judge their offices were swamped with obligations regarding the sports betting petition, another referendum petition, the gubernatorial recall petition, and handling other election duties. Other counties also sought similar relief from the California Secretary of State.

That led to Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Laurie M. Earl giving the counties an extension to May 26 to verify the sports betting signatures.

It’s not the first time a judge has signed off on giving more time for the initiative. Last year, a judge gave petitioners more time to obtain signatures because proponents said the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for them.

The judge pushed the deadline to Dec. 14, which allowed proponents to get more than 1.4 million signatures.

The petition process was started by the Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering, which received funding from the state’s tribal gaming operators that stand to benefit from offering sports betting through its casinos.

According to information from the Secretary of State’s office, the group received “major funding” from the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians, Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

California Tracks Could Also Offer Sports Betting

The petition would allow tribal casinos in the state to offer sports betting as well as roulette and dice games, subject to the tribes reaching an agreement with the governor on compacts. Those compacts would also need to be approved by the state legislature.

It also allows on-site sports betting at four horse racing tracks, Golden Gate Fields, Santa Anita, Del Mar, and Los Alamitos. The state collecting a 10 percent tax on the profits from those sportsbooks.

Racing officials are hopeful sportsbooks would help add money for races, which they hope would attract more horses to the circuit.

While it is still early in the process, TOC is hopeful the net result from the legalization of sports wagering in California and new sports gaming revenue sharing agreements to be negotiated with the racetracks will add as much as $10 million a year in new purse revenues statewide by 2023,” said Gary Fenton, chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, in a March message to members.

Card room and professional sports teams would not be allowed to participate in sports betting under the referendum. There is a separate movement to legalize sports betting for those groups.

Initially, the tribal referendum was likely headed for a 2022 vote, but it’s possible it could get pushed to this year thanks to the gubernatorial recall election.