California Sports Betting Faces Tough But Not Impossible Road

California is the fifth largest economy in the world — if you carved it from the US — but is still in the 20th Century regarding gambling law.
With a projected first-year tax revenue of $100 million, an individual would think that California would want to have sports gambling legalized as quickly as possible. But…it might be five years, or even longer, before sports gambling is headquartered in the state.
A lot of the challenge is the lack of comprehension of this land, and the way the stakeholders interact with each other and the state government. Hopefully this guide will clear some of the smoke from the room.
Because it is the second sector this decade that has flipped from illegal to controlled, California already has any expertise in that regard. I’ll try to decipher here what the problems are, in the expectation that better understanding of those issues will help get to some win/win for all parties involved as economically as you can.
The lay of this property for California sports gambling Present-day stakeholders in CA gaming include these 3 things:
Cardrooms
Tribes
Horse racing tracks
The cardrooms
Cardrooms have been legal since 1936 (draw poker; hold’em along with other poker games were held to be legal in 1987, player-banked table games were legal at 1988). In all three cases, the cardrooms needed to go to court, challenge the state’s gambling statute, and win.
They are subject to state regulation, which was criticized (and justly so, in my opinion) by tribal gaming interests. They’re a politically powerful enough group, but pale compared to the political power that the tribes have in California.
Tribal gaming
Tribes initially offered bingo, then after winning the landmark Cabazon case in 1987, which led to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, moved on to slot machines, player-banked table games involving cards (house-banked card matches in 1993), and eventually went to the electorate to get their casinos fully 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 translated this to mean they have a monopoly on anything that could be offered in a casino, which might include sports gambling.
Racetracks
While horse racing is generally considered to be a mature business, with two big paths final in the previous ten years because the land has been more valuable put to housing and other applications, it is still a favorite pastime for many in California, and the horsemen have political clout too.
How they intersect
As you might expect, the three stakeholders do not enjoy each other.
The actual stakeholders, naturally, are those of California, who’d probably see tax revenues approaching $100 million in the first year of performance, and up of this as the market evolves.
However, the CA state budget is roughly $180 billion annually, so everything is relative. One would think there’s enough cash to go around this time, which was not the case 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 gambling has been discussed in the legislature for nearly two years now. Historical in 2016, Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced), who is also chair of the Meeting’s Governmental Organizational Committee (which oversees, among other items, gaming in the country ) introduced AB 1573, that could create a frame for supplying sports gambling.
The invoice has been rather vanilla in terms of regulation: service providers licensing with a stakeholder to supply solutions. For many reasons, including the national sports betting ban was intract in the moment, the bill never got past a hearing, nor was there any type of informational hearing on the situation.
Assemblyman Gray returned 2017 with ACA 18, which would change the California Constitution to enable the legislature to govern sports betting. Additionally, this went nowhere, although it’s interesting to note that Gray may or may not have needed his own timeline backwards.
Normally, with respect to gaming expansion in California, you need the electorate to approve a ballot proposal first, then the legislature would write and approve regulations for it. There may or may not be a suggestion here that lawmakers thought it originally wouldn’t need voter approval to promulgate sports gambling regulations.
Changing the constitution?
Finally, a group referred to as”Californians For Sports Betting” declared it would be trying to get an initiative on the 2020 ballot which would repeal the above clause approved by the electorate in 2000.
The first ballot proposal sought to strike Article IV, Sec 19 (e) of the California Constitution. I originally thought this ballot proposal was sponsored by a sportsbook, since nobody with knowledge of how California politics functions would realize that the tribes could spend upwards of $100 million, and not batting an eye on the tests, to defeat this step and protect their land interests.
What this accomplished was the following:
It irritated the tribes so much, they used their political power to have any hearings canceled on the matter, so effectively killing any laws for 2018.
The step also annoyed the cardroom business, since it preempted anything they were trying to achieve with sports gambling, and because most tribes (wrongly) would think that the cardrooms were behind the bill (they were not ). There’s not a great deal of trust right now involving the cardrooms and the sportsbook operators.
There is a fear among both some tribes and a few cardroom operators the sportsbooks could only sweep and dominate the gambling business, and need to learn more before deciding how to proceed. Whether that fear is logically based isn’t relevant.
A rewrite of the ballot measure
The promoters did rewrite the initiative a couple of months afterwards, which left Art IV, Sec 19 (e) unchanged, but restricting the governor from negotiating compacts with tribes who want to run off-reservation gambling (which many tribes probably would support), and directly authorizing the legislature to regulate sports betting, in the way proposed by Gray’s 2016 AB 1573.
So, the present version of the ballot initiative looks more like it was written by a celebration with some sophistication as to how gaming works in California, or at least got some help on the issue.
Finally, I would anticipate some version of the previous ACA 18 or AB 1573, or maybe both, to surfaced soon after the legislature reconvenes following the holidays.
Who will get to divide the money, and if?
The stumbling block in all of this is an unnecessary struggle regarding who gets to own the game.
The tribes originally tried to play with the monopoly cardbut realizing that the tracks are just too strong to be excluded, enlisted them in an alliance against the cardrooms.
Moreover, it is not a good look to state you’re against sports betting, as a few tribes and tribal advocates have said, when you’re not only remodeling your unprofitable off-track-betting facility, you’re marketing the reopening of it as well. In fairness, tribal interests are not necessarily aligned with this issue, depending on the tribe. As you’re likely to see, there’s going to be something here for everyone who’s invested in this to hate.
The biggest difficulty, as I see California, is that you have two major entities who operate gaming companies with considerable political power, but really don’t know either gaming nor the casino enterprise.
Cardrooms and tribes stand to gain Cardrooms can’t have some interest in the results of any arrangement in their cardroom. Moreover, though some operators fantasize about having the ability to bank their own matches (and therefore eliminate the (Third-Party Providers of Proposition Player Services or TPPPS), the truth is that particular learning curve will be steep and probably very expensive. Game protection is a totally different animal when it’s your bankroll whatsoever.
Tribal members get a check, and if they are lucky, a healthy check, each month from gaming revenues, but do not really know how that check is generated. So, you have two related, controlled businesses which are essentially mom and pop companies, regardless of the size of them, that normally rely upon other people to advise them how to conduct their businesses.
The tribes generally are happy with the status quo and leary of anything but, and that is certainly understandable.
There are no visionary Jack Binion or Terry Lanni clones in tribal gaming or the cardroom industry. What confusion that comes from that is certainly understandable. Unfortunately, this brings in a number of celebrities that don’t always have their customers or investors best interests at heart.
No Lack of unsympathetic parties
The tribes, for the most part, rely on their corporate lawyers and lobbyists, that, for the most part, oblige them by treating them such as ATM machines, selling unneeded, unnecessary, and most importantly, unwinnable battle.
The latest development is a suit filed last month by two Southern California tribes against numerous cardrooms, asserting they are running banked table games in breach of their so-called monopoly on table games.
The first issue is that if that is accurate, they’re suing the wrong people; their beef is with the condition. The next issue is that if you’re going to sue the State over breach of compact (the appropriate filing and cause of activity here), this lawsuit always is heard in federal court. As there’s a failure to join a essential party to the lawsuit (the State of California) which likely won’t agree to be sued in state court, the likely result is most likely the issue will be dismissed on procedural grounds.
Effective regulation?
On the other hand, you have a number of”old school” cardroom shareholders that keep score by how much they can create, but by how far they can get over. You have a couple of operators who frankly should not, in my view, hold gaming licenses, along with the tribes’ complaints into the state about their inability to govern (read”field”) these operators is a legitimate one.
Additionally, it rather begs the question whether the state is properly equipped to really enforce bad behavior (as opposed to allowing the miscreants write a check to”settle” the accusations). If they can not revoke a licensee for egregious anti-money laundering offenses, it makes you wonder if they can fairly regulate a company which handles substantially more cash.
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 offer table games, as long as the players bank the matches and not the house. Services known as TPPPS will bank the games when no one wants to. The occurrence of these companies is at root the center and soul of the meat that the tribes have with the state.
They assert that they have a”monopoly” on table games and slot machines, in which the reality is that they probably have neither. They know this, also. For many years, they have threatened all kinds of litigation.
The problem is, any lawsuit against the State of California would always take place in federal court, rather than say. Why is this important? With a US District Court judge, which is an appointed for life position, the ruling will be about the law, and only the law, instead of the political triangulation elected state court judges often offer as a guise to interpreting the law.
To find past motion in federal court, you’re going to have to prove you’ve been hurt; Quite simply, you are likely to need to prove you actually have a monopoly. Hanging your hat on a richly composed part of the state constitution is a surefire way to sabotage what monopoly can exist within your mind.
While courts have used the term”monopoly” within their opinions regarding tribal gaming in California, there’s been no explicit grant of a biography by the electorate. The constitutionality of Art IV Sec 19 (e) has never been challenged, in my opinion the clause is cloudy, especially in light that the tribes could have choosen more direct speech in writing the ballot proposal.
In addition, in the litigation which has previously taken place, it has been by individual members of tribes suing as humans, using some creative methods for getting their grievances aired in (state) court. Thus, looking at things from a purely historic manner, the tribes likely know exactly where they’re at with this.
The truth is CA sports gambling There are four issues that are real and static.
The convenience Element First, cardroom clients are almost always customers of advantage. Consider the person who would rather shop at 7-Eleven (poor selection, high costs ) compared to the Safeway, since the 7-Eleven is across the road and he must drive ten minutes to the Safeway.
Most gamblers just wish to be in action whenever possible. That is why a gambler who lives in Alhambra, east of downtown Los Angeles, that is maybe 45 minutes out of San Manuel, one of the greatest locals casinos everywhere, would rather drive the 15 minutes to Commerce Casino, even though the amenities are inferior and the cost of gaming is much higher.
Therefore, even though some of those table games went off tomorrow, the cardroom customer would probably just go back to enjoying the traditional player-banked games (i.e. Pai gow tiles, Pai gow poker, etc) or poker. Yes, cardroom revenues would decrease somewhat but the tribes would get hardly any of that. Definitely no matter the millions they have invested with the attorneys and lobbyists with this specific issue so far, for certain.
Geography
Second, the real complaint that the tribes have with the cardrooms on sports betting, is all about the real estate. The cardrooms, which the larger ones are nearly exclusively in metropolitan areas, the real estate favors the cardrooms.
With any debut of sports gambling, it’s possible that the path will duplicate what some other authorities have done before: roll out the product as land-based simply to start. This is concerning to the tribes, but perhaps they have no reason to be concerned. Let us take the person who resides in West LA, would he prefer to drive 20-30 minutes to Hollywood Park (or a little 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 is not really firm the tribes are receiving anyway, and you’re almost surely losing business because of it. Very much like this dining table games difficulty, in my opinion.
What is the Strategy?
Third, it is fairly clear the sportsbooks do not have a plan for California, at least however. Exhibit A are the first ill-advised ballot proposition, which killed any possibility of finding the issue to the voters in 2018, and surely did not help things for 2020 and perhaps beyond.
Some European operators are online just; the thought of performing retail (walkup, traditional) mortifies some of these. However, they are also natural partners for the cardrooms, as in almost any legislation that goes through, the cardrooms probably would not be able to accept bets themselves, and would be consigned to charging rent to their operator-tenant.
Thus, some of the delay in the procedure is technology-driven, or the inability of several modern online operators to operate a”conventional” sportsbook. But some operators have walkup books in Nevada, the united kingdom, along with other authorities and can certainly use their expertise to a competitive edge when and if California opens for business.
Ultimately, and most importantly in my opinion, unlike the struggle to receive online poker legalized, there is more than enough cash to go around. Pretax earnings for a mature California marketplace, retail books simply, has been projected to approach $1 billion, or about 40 times what online poker has been estimated to earn.
At a ten percent tax rate, which will be a sensible one for all parties involved, tax revenue could approach $100 million.
Suggestion box
Though the legislature has traditionally deferred to the stakeholders to hammer out their own deal and contact these, perhaps its time for the legislature to legislate more harshly instead of defer, due to the quantity of potential tax revenue involved.
As stated in the beginning, the real stakeholders in this are the people of the State of California, and as such they’re owed a duty by the people who represent them in Sacramento to find this issue to ballot as efficiently as possible. Especially as there’ll be layers within this, due to the underlying preceding disputes, the legislature would be well advised to be much proactive this time round.

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