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Propositions 26 and 27: Understanding what's inside California sports betting propositions

An iPad displays potential bets at the Golden 1 Center's Skyloft Predictive Gaming Lounge in Sacramento in March 2019.
Rich Pedroncelli
AP Photo
An iPad displays potential bets at the Golden 1 Center's Skyloft Predictive Gaming Lounge in Sacramento in March 2019.

Californians will get to vote on two propositions related to sports betting this November.

Proposition 26 would legalize in-person betting at tribal casinos and racetracks. Proposition 27 would allow for online betting.

JPR’s Jane Vaughan recently spoke with Mary-Beth Moylan, a law professor and associate dean at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, to find out more about the two measures.

Jane Vaughan: So, what would Propositions 26 and 27 do?

Mary-Beth Moylan: Proposition 26 basically would allow for in-person sports betting on tribal lands where tribes already have existing compacts with the state of California. It would also [include] some additional games on tribal lands, so roulette and craps would be allowed to be also played in tribal casinos. Prop 27 will allow online sports betting throughout the state of California. Primarily, 27 is going to be allowing all of the major online sports betting companies to operate in California lawfully.

JV: And what are the main arguments for and against them?

MBM: So the main argument for Prop 26 is that there need to be some greater protections around sports betting and we should keep that type of gaming in a very controlled environment, that it should only be in-person. I should add that Prop 26 would allow the in-person betting to happen on tribal land and also at four different racetracks in Southern California.

The argument in favor of Prop 27 is basically that Californians are already engaged in online sports betting, they're just not doing it in the context of a regulated structure. And that if we know that people are already doing online sports betting, we should be capturing the taxes that are associated with that, and we should be getting money from the companies who are doing it.

One argument against both of them is just that we should not be expanding gambling. The argument against Prop 26 versus Prop 27 is that it is too restrictive of what people want to be doing and the realities of our world today, in which most people are doing most things online, and so why not gambling? Because 26 really does require people to be in-person to engage in the sports betting. The argument against Prop 27 is that it is funded by mega-corporations who are involved in the gaming industry who are not California corporations, that it will benefit people outside of California far more than it will benefit people within the state.

JV: How much money would these propositions raise, and how would that money be spent?

MBM: When you ask how much will they raise, I mean, the question is sort of, how much will people gamble, and how much will people spend?

There is a 10% tax on the revenues or on the profits that is in place in Prop 27. That's, you know, 90% of the profits would be returned to the tribes and the racetracks. 85% of that 10% would go to homelessness issues. 15% of the 10% would go to a tribal economic development account.

And then Prop 26, the money from that would go to the California Department of Health for gambling prevention programs, to the Bureau of Gambling Control for enforcement and implementation of the sports wagering rules, and then 70% would go to the general fund.

JV: How much money has been spent on advertising for these two Props?

MBM: So a tremendous amount of money has been spent already for advertising for these two propositions. And I expect that in the next month, even more will be spent. If your listeners take a look at the Cal Access website, the quarterly report suggests that even in the first six months of the year, something like $100 million had been raised from the big gambling companies to support Proposition 27, and they still had on hand about $77 million. And the other side has raised in excess of $30 million. So there's a tremendous amount of money going into these propositions.

JV: So what happens if they both pass in November?

MBM: The California Constitution provides that when two measures are in conflict, the measure with the greater percentage of the vote will take effect. And the other measure, even though it passed, will not be implemented. I suspect that there will be a lawsuit by whichever measure has the lower percentage of the vote to say, we should be able to have this measure take effect too, the measures are not in conflict. And that will be then left to the courts to decide whether the measures are conflicting or not.

I'll add that Proposition 27 has a provision within it that declares that Proposition 27 does not conflict with Proposition 26. Now, that's all well and good. But a court is not going to simply say, 'Oh, well, the proponents of the proposition don't think it's in conflict. End of story.'

This interview has been edited for clarity and expanded to add further detail.

Jane Vaughan began her journalism career as a reporter for a community newspaper in Portland, Maine. She's been a producer at New Hampshire Public Radio and worked on WNYC's On The Media. Jane earned her Master's in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.