California lawmakers failed to broker a compromise on sports betting in the state, admitting this week that there’s no chance of getting the issue on the ballot in November.

California sports betting Canada
California sports betting is on the shelf until at least 2022, denying locals the chance to bet on teams like the Lakers and Clippers. (Image: Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

Both houses of the state legislature needed to pass a constitutional amendment by a two-thirds majority by Thursday in order to give voters the chance to consider the issue on Election Day.

Competing Interests Complicate California Sports Betting

State Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa) hoped to get a measure on the ballot this year, but was unable to balance the desires of the many powerful stakeholders in California’s gaming industry.

“Given the deadlines for getting a measure on the November ballot and the impact of COVID-19 on the public’s ability to weigh in, we were not able to get the bill across the finish line this year,” Dodd said in a statement. “It remains important that we lift this widespread practice out of the shadows to make it safer. and to generate money for the people of California.”

Dodd’s bill would have allowed both California’s tribes and racetracks to offer brick-and-mortar and online sports betting operations.

However, a tribal coalition still opposes the legislation. The tribes object to a provision that would allow the state’s card rooms to offer house-backed versions of blackjack and other card games, which tribal casinos have the exclusive rights to at the moment. Native American tribes also oppose online sportsbooks, preferring to have sports betting only at casinos – a move that might bring more bettors to their resorts.

“It’s more complicated than it appears because there’s so many different players,” Governor Gavin Newsom said on Friday. “And we’ve got to accommodate for those concerns – card rooms, tribal interests – [and] obviously address all those issues together.”

The failure to put the amendment on the ballot could delay California sports betting by at least three years. The public won’t be able to consider the bill again until November 2022, making 2023 the earliest possible implementation date.

Sports Leagues Support Canadian Legislation

Five major North American sports leagues are lending their support to Bill C-218, a piece of Canadian legislation that would allow for single-event betting in the country. Currently, Canadians can bet on sports in several provinces, but only via multi-game parlays. The NBA, MLB, NHL, CFL, and MLS are among the leagues supporting the bill.

The Ontario government also supports the bill, which Saskatoon MP Kevin Waugh introduced with support from multiple parties. Waugh sees the bill as a lifeline for networks and leagues that are struggling due to factors like the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For a league that’s in trouble right now – the Canadian Football League – this could be the lifeline that [CFL commissioner] Randy Ambrosie needs,” Waugh told The Athletic. “We’ve got to get a younger audience tuning into the CFL. We know that.”

Waugh believes that a second reading of his bill could come in September, and that the bill could go to the Senate for approval as early as 2021. The legislation would allow provinces to set their own rules for sports betting, much as states do in the USA.

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