After months of coverage, the race to bring online betting to the Golden State is likely to end in a stark rejection. That’s the case unless there is a major change in public sentiment across the last month of campaigning if recent polls are to be believed. November 8th will see both propositions experience a substantial defeat, based on this latest information. For people waiting to see what happened in California before advancing legislation in other states, this is a definite setback.
Late in September, a poll found that Prop 27, which would legalize online sports betting statewide, was trailing among the public by a margin of 20% – 54% intending to vote “No” while just 34% were minded to back the measure. Now, the first poll on Prop 26, which would expand provision of betting by Indian casinos in the state, has returned similarly sobering numbers for betting advocates. Although the margin is narrower – 42-31 in favour of “No” – the fact that less than a third of eligible voters are likely to vote “Yes” is a significant hurdle to overcome.
If voting in the referendum is even close to the results indicated by these polls, it is hard to see a way forward for the extension of gambling of any kind in the state. Although some people will blame the negative attack ads advanced by opponents of each measure – including, ironically, by some supporters of the rival proposition – this wholehearted rejection of both measures makes it difficult to theorise what kind of bill would actually be supported by a majority of voters.
Other states have not gone down the road of holding referendums to regulate betting. Among the states to pass recent pro-gambling legislation Kansas, Massachusetts and Maine all gave the green light at the congressional level. While there might be a path through the state legislature for a legal betting bill in theory, the anticipated rejection that awaits Props 26 and 27 makes it harder tactically. What message would be sent if lawmakers were to respond to a referendum defeat by taking the decision out of the hands of the public?
As one of the larger states yet to make a definite move on regulated gambling – Texas has not advanced any major legislation but is generally felt to be against liberalization – California was viewed as an indicator for states pondering their own gambling ordinance. It remains to be seen whether Minnesota, which is felt to be gambling-friendly, will slow or park its potential legislation. Missouri, another candidate to regulate sports betting in 2023 or earlier, may also be spooked by a negative result in California. However in the latter case, the recent launch of sports betting in neighboring Kansas may play a bigger part in any eventual decision.
As for California, there is no absolute guarantee that the polls will not turn in the few weeks left. But campaigners would need to pull a fairly major rabbit out of the proverbial hat in order to reverse such a gaping chasm in support.