CA mobile betting bill uncertain as hearing postponed

Cvetanka Cvetanovska | Published 19 Jun 2020, 1:12 p.m.

We’ve reported earlier this month that the state of California plans to legalise sports betting. The State authorities believe that the legalisation of sports betting activities will boost the revenue by increasing the gaming options and provide greater flexibility on these matters. Soon after, the Committee approved the sports betting bill, setting out further plans and outline for this market in terms of gross revenue, retail taxes and online platforms.

However, it seems we’ll have to wait for the official approval of the Amendment for a few days more. As it has been announced, California’s proposed mobile wagering bill has been postponed and rescheduled for the next week, leaving sports betting operators in an unfavoured waiting mode.

This Wednesday the California state Senate Appropriations Committee cancelled its Thursday hearing of Senate Constitutional Amendment 6 (SCA-6). This hearing was supposed to define the question on whether to authorise land-based and mobile sports betting via tribal casinos and state racetracks. The hearing was cancelled by a request of the senator Bill Dodd.

Tribes demand a revision on the Amendment

The delay gives more time for discussion on the amendment between stakeholders, including the tribes who openly expressed their dissatisfaction for the fact that they’ve not been consulted. The next hearing is scheduled for June 23, and the amendment must pass through the legislature with two-thirds majority approval. If the amendment passes, the referendum will happen on the November 3 ballot.

SCA - 6 Amendment holds few other components besides betting, including allowing the state’s cardrooms to continue operating their player-banked card games, which tribal casino operators claim infringe on their monopoly on house-banked games such as blackjack and baccarat.

The amended SCA-6 presents a phased mobile wagering plan, starting with on-site mobile wagering at casinos and tracks in 2021. The following year, statewide wagering would be permitted but only after mandatory, in-person account registration. By 2023, mobile bettors would be free to both sign up and wager.

SCA-6 tries to soothe the tribes by allowing them to add dice and roulette games to their slots and cards choices. However, the tribes opposed the bill’s mobile betting option, preferring their own plan to restrict betting to in-person at tracks and casinos.

Possible hit on California’s land-based casino venues

Tribes are hoping to get their own sports betting measure on a ballot either this November or in 2022 and have asked for a deadline extension in order to acquire the needed signatures. Their main argument against the amendment is that it provides constitutional protection for the card rooms. They are convinced that sports betting would hurt their economies which heavily rely on the revenue generated from casinos.

This week they even held a public webinar tackling the betting challenges. In general, they are aware that mobile betting is the future of this industry, but in the process of getting to the final destination, they prefer to be in the driver’s seat rather than in the passenger’s as to how that transition occurs. They believe that online and mobile betting activities would hurt their land-based casinos, most of which are based far outside cities.

The senator Bill Dodd stated that few more discussion sessions will follow before this bill reaches the Senate floor. The bill was reportedly amended this week to include some of the concerns raised by tribes in previous hearings. However, tribes felt the amendment was forced and rushed without their agreement and consultation.

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