New effort to legalize sports betting in California cites coronavirus attack on state economy

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Stadiums, arenas and rinks have been left empty to limit the spread of the coronavirus, but two northern California lawmakers are betting legalize sports betting will help the state’s economy recover from the economic shutdown.

Senator Bill Dodd, D-Napa, and Assembly Member Adam Gray D-Merced on Thursday released a revised proposal to amend the state’s Constitution in hopes of negotiating a deal with tribal casinos , racetracks and arcades. If the measure passes through the Legislature, it would go to the November ballot for voter approval.

Legal sports betting in California would generate at least $ 200 million in tax revenue in the first year and end up making $ 500-700 million a year as it grows in popularity, supporters said.

“Even if you don’t bet, there are good reasons to support this bill,” Dodd said. “The income from sports betting will help us avoid teacher layoffs and painful cuts. At the same time, it will allow us to regulate a practice that is happening anyway. “

A 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturned a provision in the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, 1992, which prohibited states from allowing sports betting. Since then, 23 states have legalized sports betting and 18 already accept betting on professional and, in some states, university sports.

But until last year, California held on.

Dodd and Gray introduced a measure in June that did not include any details about which companies would be allowed to accept bets on sporting events and how they would operate.

The amendments introduced on Thursday give this right to tribal casinos and racetracks. Casinos would also be allowed to operate roulette and craps tables, which are now banned. Gaming centers could continue to offer certain card games that tribal casinos claim illegally infringe their exclusive rights to casino games.

Previous efforts to legalize sports games of chance – mostly played behind the scenes – have failed due to the inability to secure the agreement of tribes and horse racing and card room operators. In December, a coalition of tribes that operate casinos in California tried to gain the upper hand by proposing to exclude card rooms from the action and ban online or mobile betting.

The new proposal will still face opposition from some tribes operating state casinos who do not like allowing card clubs to operate certain games that they believe should be exclusive to casinos.

“We urge Senator Dodd to remove California cardroom provisions until this industry exhibits consistent behavior that proves they are both willing and able to operate within existing laws and regulations.” said James Siva, president of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, which represents many of the state’s tribal casinos.

The proposal must pass through each chamber of the Legislative Assembly by a two-thirds majority before being submitted to the voters, who are expected to approve it by a simple majority.

The revised amendment would levy a tax of 10% on gross income for bets placed in a casino or on a racetrack, and 15% for bets made online or using a mobile device.

Illegal sports betting, mostly done online or with mobile devices through offshore companies, is estimated to attract $ 150 billion in sports betting every year.

“This is not a new bet. People are betting billions of dollars already, so we legalize it and tax it, ”Dodd said. “With the COVID-19 environment and the deficits we have at the state level, this is important.”

California only recently started lifting restrictions that have shut down most businesses and ordered people to say home in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The economic shutdown has cost the state dearly, as California now faces a budget deficit of over $ 54 billion.

The revised constitutional amendment will be considered Tuesday by the Senate Committee on Government Organization.

Michael Cabanatuan is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @ctuan





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