You can’t watch television these days without being assaulted by ads for and against Proposition 27. The proponents of 27 have also invested a great deal to turn Californians against Proposition 26, a measure that would allow gaming tribes in California to offer sports betting in person at tribal casinos and horseracing tracks, as well as allowing them to add roulette and some dice games to their portfolio.

On paper, Prop 26 doesn’t seem that bad. After all, shouldn’t California’s gaming tribes be allowed to compete with Las Vegas casinos by offering popular games like roulette and craps? Isn’t sports betting now legal thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Murphy vs. the NCAA? We hold that people were already betting on sports, and will continue to bet on sports legally or illegally as sands pass through the hourglass. Therefore, sports betting should be legalized and taxed. However, we are opposed to Proposition 26 because of the provision that allows for in-person sports betting at already established horseracing tracks. It might not seem like enough to turn against a measure that provides greater competitiveness in gaming to California tribes. However, given the increasingly troublesome record of premature horse deaths and abuse at our race track facilities throughout the state, we do not think these facilities should be granted an additional reason to visit. Bring back a measure without the horseracing track provisions and we will support it.

As for Prop 27, we recognize reports that have found online betting is a particularly insidious and addictive form of betting. We followed up on the L.A. Times columnist Michael Hiltzik identifying work by McGill University in Montreal and the Oregon Research institute that found online gaming leads to problem gambling. In a world growing increasingly attached to its smartphones, the prospect of this mode of gaming is an all too available source of trouble.

But there is so much more that’s wrong with 27. First, it is an obvious attempt at some of the nation’s more powerful gaming operations – among them the popular fantasy sports gaming apps DraftKings and FanDuel – to profit off of the country’s largest untapped pool of potential sports gamblers. It promises hundreds of millions of dollars per year to go toward housing the homeless population and providing them with wrap-around services, but these are just projections. Remember voting to approve the State Lottery in 1986? That was supposed to solve education funding. And what monies go to supporting the unhoused must do so in perpetuity. If the state gets a handle on the homelessness crisis in five years, or 10 years, it doesn’t matter. Proposition 27 will continue to fund homeless programs no matter what progress is made. An entirely new state constitutional measure might be needed to redirect that money to the next crisis of the moment in the 2030s, likely related to climate. Further, given the addictive nature of online gaming, how many homeless will be created by this proposition’s side effect of thousands of families losing it all?

But aside from the homeless funding, billions more will be leaving the state without creating any jobs outside those that employ some supportive housing construction. The gaming interests will reap outlandishly lucrative profits likely to create plenty of jobs on the eastern seaboard; Just none anywhere near the Golden State.

The Yes on 27 forces would have also you believe that the measure provides an ample bounty to smaller and nongaming tribes in California. But, like the homeless funding, these tribes are counting on questionable projections and may not receive anything near what they are counting on. And we’re only talking about – according to the gaming tribes opposing the measure – three tribes that are supportive of 27. Even if there are a few more that they didn’t disclose, it’s but a handful who have been coaxed into supporting 27 and may come to regret it.

Proposition 27 is likely to be just the first attempt by Big Gaming to inflict online sports gaming to the largest state in the nation. Better measures may be written in the future, but this one is a disingenuous money grab filled with a mostly empty promise to solve the crisis of the moment. We encourage you to also reject it.

Photo Image by Nina Shatirishvili.

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