SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Desperate to patch a $54 billion state budget deficit, the California legislature is warming to the idea of legalizing sports betting.
The proposed legislation, co-authored by Sen. Bill Dodd, would legalize sports betting in the state and would only allow it to take place at tribal casinos and major horse racing venues, leaving California’s card rooms out in the cold.
Surprisingly, the bill’s biggest opposition is coming from the tribal casinos.
“Obviously we’ve got some challenges,” Dodd told FOX40. “We’ve got the tribes who are very unhappy with the way this has proceeded.”
FOX40 obtained a letter sent to the senator Tuesday from the California tribal governments.
Twenty-one members, who operate gaming facilities, expressed their deep disappointment and strong opposition to the initiative.
Their main concerns are two-fold.
First, with this initiative, card rooms will have their current games cemented into law, keeping them safe from constant legal assaults from tribes and the state attorney general.
Secondly, the tribes are concerned about the ease of online gaming and the convenience of betting at home discouraging guests from visiting their casinos.
“It’s a delicate balance, but I think respect for who we’re working with really will help,” said Dodd. “You know, when you’ve got a budget short-fall somewhere between 25 and 50 billion dollars, every little bit helps. It is a prime time for this bill. It’s something that makes sense. Look, the only other opposition to this bill are people that just don’t want gambling at all.”
The California gaming association estimates that $10 billion in illegal sports bets are made each year in California.
Regulating gambling and taxing could generate $500 to $700 million annually, according to Dodd’s plan, which is why legislators are warming to the idea of legalizing sports betting.
“This might have been something that had been put off, but who really knows. Certainly, the budget has helped gain momentum from people who might normally not have been really excited about this,” said Dodd.
Time is short on the sports betting initiative because it also must pass the Senate and Assembly floors by the end of June in order for it to end up on the November ballot.