California May See Special Election to Legalize Sports Betting

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California may get a special election in 2021 to legalize its sports betting industry for a much needed economic boost that the state needs from this market.

The Golden State has been undergoing an enduring process to legalize its sports betting industry. Though a referendum to this effect won’t be coming during the November ballot this year, it may appear before voters sooner than they’re expecting.

After its unsuccessful bid to get the agenda on the ballot in 2020, sports analysts and state lawmakers assumed that sports betting be put before voters, not until November 2022. Yet, it may come even before this assumption. Due to continuous efforts from Native American tribes, California is likely to vote on this topic by 2021.

The Initial Plan Was to Get on 2020 Ballot

Initially, all stakeholders and concerned parties were optimistic that the initiative to legalize the industry could make its way in this year’s November ballot. However, due to the pandemic-led crisis, it was realized that the movement could not pass as stipulated.

Most of the counties in California have been under tight restrictions, making it difficult to collect signatures. At a certain point, state leaders gave up on the push for regulated sports betting. The tribal coalition didn’t.

Gathering Signatures Will Push the Vote Forward

Recently, a California court granted the Native American coalition an extension to gather more signatures to get sports betting on the voters’ ballot. The tribes are now time until October 12 to gain 997,139 total signatures.

According to reports, the coalition has already reached this threshold. However, they are targeting for 1.6 million endorsements to show authorities that sports betting is desired in California.

While commenting on what happens if the tribes gain sufficient endorsements to meet the criterion, spokesperson for the Native American Coalition Jacob Mejia said:

“The way it works is that if we qualify the initiative, then it’s teed up for the upcoming statewide election.”

In any case, if they meet the threshold, the sports betting will be put on the coming state election. Though it is scheduled for 2022, a legal stipulation may see a snap poll next year.

What Are the Chances of a Mid-term Election?


As said before, the next state election is scheduled in 2022. Yet, the Governor and the state legislature is authorized to announce a mid-term election in 2021.

Usually, mid-term elections are rare events. However, considering the potential of the sports betting industry to support a dwindling state economy with significant revenues, the snap-poll appears to be the need of the hour.

The last snap poll in California took place back in 2009. However, if another special election is not approved for 2021, then the lawmakers could move to place a measure on the primary ballot in 2022.

This situation would lead to the coalition and state lawmakers wrangling once again over what the framework of the betting industry would take shape in California. Sadly, this has been a constant occurrence over the last two years.

Eventually, California tribes have significant leverage with gambling in the state. Many members of the legislature wanted to avoid the existing compacts to legalize sports betting to have control over the industry. It caused serious issues with tribes and threats of lawsuits.

Now, the coalition is looking to push its initiative instead of allowing state leaders to create a betting industry that mostly benefits the state. It’s an unceasing contest between the two sides.

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