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High stakes battle over legalizing CA sports gambling on Nov. ballot

Sports gambling could soon become a big money maker in the Golden State – expected to generate billions of dollars per year in revenue, but only if voters legalize it.

On ballots this November, California voters are likely to see two different options when it comes to legalizing sports gambling – one that would allow betting in person, such as at a casino, and one that would permit it online from any device.

A recent survey found almost half of Californians – 45 percent – would support amending the state's constitution to legalize sports betting. About a third, or 33 percent, said they're opposed. 22 percent remain undecided.

"We think this is a really responsible approach to initiating sports betting in California," said Kathy Fairbanks with the Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming.

Fairbanks represents the Tribal Sports Wagering Act, which has already qualified to appear on the November ballot.

Supported by more than 40 California tribes, it would legalize in-sports betting at casinos and the state's four racetracks.

It's estimated to bring in tens of millions of dollars annually for the state's general fund, "which could fund education, healthcare, whatever the state's priorities are at the time – no strings attached," Fairbanks said.

But there's another competing measure which is on its way to securing enough signatures to appear on this year's ballot.

It's called the California Solutions to Homeless and Mental Health Support Act.

"We believe it is the best path forward for the state," said spokesman Nathan Click.

Click said the measure, which is led by national gaming corporations Draft Kings and Fan Duel, would allow online sports betting.

"Our measure would provide hundreds of millions of dollars in solutions to homelessness and mental health," Click said.

Tribal gaming operators oppose this measure, with concerns growing that online gaming would siphon people out of casinos – sending tribal revenue instead to out-of-state corporations.

New Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Tribal Chairman Reid Milanovich said in a statement to News Channel 3: "For 20 years, California voters have stood with Indian Tribes as we pursue self-sufficiency. We’re asking voters to once again stand with Indian tribes to support the already qualified, in-person Tribal Sports Wagering Measure and oppose the Corporate Online Sports Gambling Proposition."

Fairbanks said voters are highly concerned about the online measure because of illegal, underage sports betting. "There’s no way to really ensure that kids under 21 aren't actually betting," she said.

Her coalition is running an ad on local television that says the measure would turn "every cell phone, laptop, tablet, and even video game console into a gambling device – opening up online gambling to anyone, anywhere, anytime."

Click said safeguards against minors gambling would be in place if the measure passes. "It enforces that by using state-of-the-art 'Know Your Customer' technology that big financial institutions like big banks use to verify a customer's identity," he said.

There is a third, tribal-backed measure proposing both in-person and online sports betting. Experts said it is unlikely to qualify for this year's ballot, but voters could see it for 2024.

It is possible that voters approve both the in-person and online measures. In that case, litigation is expected to play out due to the overlapping provisions in the two measures.

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Jake Ingrassia

Joining News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 as a reporter, Jake is excited to be launching his broadcasting career here in the desert. Learn more about Jake here.


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