California sports betting referendum latest: Good and bad news for Prop 26

August 18, 2022

As California’s campaign to regulate sports betting in the state continued, the main proposition on the upcoming ballot saw good and bad news for the campaigners supporting it in the latest exchanges around the campaign.

The good news for supporters of Proposition 26 first: the campaign against the proposition was forced into a climbdown last week as they were met with a lawsuit from the NAACP for including a quote from a longtime member of the organization in their literature. The quote, which purported to demonstrate NAACP opposition to the upcoming legislation, was used fraudulently, according to the lawsuit. Rather than being forced into a courtroom to plead their case, Taxpayers Against Special Interests Monopolies agreed to remove the quote.

The case was particularly serious as the quote concerned was due to appear in the state-issued voter’s guides which are sent to homes throughout the state, and would have given the impression that the NAACP opposed Proposition 26 and that they would advise members and supporters to vote aginst it. In actual fact, the NAACP has come out in favor of the legislation and will be calling for a Yes vote when the legislation is voted on this November 8.

According to a spokesperson for the California State Conference of the NAACP, “Despite the California-Hawaii NAACP’s strong support for Prop 26, opponents tried to deceive voters into thinking the opposite”. Taxpayers Against Special Interests Monopolies is a group backed by cardrooms in the state, who oppose Prop 26 on the basis that they feel it would give tribal casinos the power to close down cardrooms they considered to be a threat to their business. Representatives of the casinos, who support the measure, have responded that any cardrooms operating within the law will have nothing to fear from the new legislation.

Meanwhile, the pro-Prop 26 campaign did suffer a setback when animal rights campaigners came out against the proposition. The California Animal Welfare Association expressed the opinion that legalization of sports betting would be an undue boost to the state’s racetracks, who CAWA feel are dragging their feet on improving the safety of animals involved in the state’s horse racing industry. In California, a state which is known to have its share of animal welfare advocates, the disapprobation of a group like CAWA could have a significant impact on the vote.

Also in the past week, it emerged that the votes on sports betting have become the most expensive ballot measures in California voting history, with a total of more than $260 million spent so far on campaigning for and against Props 26 and 27. 2020’s Proposition 22, which allowed ride-share apps to treat drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, saw $222 million raised in the entirety of its campaign – and there are still nearly three months until polling day, so the current campaigns are likely to spend more before it’s done. Given that there could yet be a court case if both propositions pass, this could be a story that runs and runs.

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