SAN DIEGO — From baseball to basketball, soccer to hockey, and even football, right now in California it is not legal to place a bet on professional or college sports teams. More than 30 other states, though, have already legalized sports betting, after the Supreme Court gave the go-ahead four years ago.
This fall, California voters will get to decide whether the Golden State also gets to 'play the odds,' and decide how they will get to play. Come this November, Californians will likely have at least two different sports betting options to vote on.
Tribal Sports Wagering Act
Already qualified for the ballot, it would permit in-person sports betting at tribal casinos and four race tracks, including Del Mar.
"In-person, age-verified sports betting is the right step to take to grow into sports betting in the state," Martinez said.
This measure would generate an estimated tens of millions of dollars for the state's general fund, according to the state's non-partisan, independent budget analyst, for education, transportation and other statewide priorities.
Martinez also said this proposal is critical to helping tribes throughout the state advance their economic self-sufficiency.
"Indian gaming on Indian lands for Indian economies," he emphasized.
It's a point that is being hammered home on television ads as well, encouraging Californians to "protect the promise."
That 'promise' refers to statewide support giving sovereign Indian nations the exclusive right to operate gaming in the Golden State. More than 20 years ago, voters passed a constitutional amendment approving Vegas-style casino gambling in California, solely on Indian tribal lands.
"We are making true on our promise on our end," Martinez added
California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Act
A competing proposal, which appears likely to qualify for the ballot, calls itself the 'California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Act.'
This measure, led by national gaming companies Draft Kings and Fan Duel, would allow online sports betting, which is currently legal in more than 20 other states.
The state's budget analyst estimates this proposal would generate hundreds of millions of dollars, which would be earmarked for programs to combat homelessness and support mental health services.
"I think it would be transformational," said Tamera Kohler, CEO of the Regional Task Force on Homelessness in San Diego.
She's a strong supporter of this proposal, which she said would provide a dedicated revenue stream, year after year, to fight homelessness.
"This could bring over $30 million annually to San Diego, and we're not taking away from any other state programs," she said.
Kohler said this measure could help provide desperately needed dollars for everything from homeless outreach, to shelters, to housing.
"We're not trying to carve it out of what already exists," she added. "It is really capturing funding that we think is already happening, but bringing it intentionally to the state for us to use it for this purpose."
Critics, though, believe that this proposal by out-of-state corporations would not only break California's 'promise' with tribal nations but also would not deliver on its promise to tackle homelessness.
"Just because you make more money available doesn't mean that it is going to fix the problem," Martinez said.
"Housing is not affordable in California," Kohler responded. "So having more dedicated resources is needed. It's not throwing more money at the problem, it's actually backfilling where we haven't invested for years."
Other opponents, including the Deputy Sheriff's Association of San Diego, charge that this online sports betting measure would lead to underage gambling.
"This is just going to create addiction at a much younger age," charged Rick Callender, president of the California/Hawaii State Conference NAACP.
"What this means is that every phone, every tablet, every computer, every video game in California would turn into an online gambling machine that kids would be able to take advantage of," Callender said. "This is not very well thought out."
While critics remain skeptical. backers of the online sports betting measure say that effective safeguards would be put in place to prevent minors from placing bets, including technology used by financial institutions to verify a customer's identity.
"I think the safeguards they're proposing have been learned over time from other states, and I think it is absolutely the best we can do and that we should do," Kohler said.
While voters won't have the final say for another six months, the possibility exists that both measures could pass.
Arizona, for example, recently hashed out a plan to allow for tribal and online gaming.
Here in California, though, it's a safe bet that if voters ultimately green-light both proposals, lengthy litigation would be in the cards.
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