Sports Gambling Fails In California… Again

A couple months ago I wrote like 2,000 words about Prop 26 and Prop 27 — two ballot measures that would have legalized sports betting at tribal casinos (26) and online (27) in California — but I never posted it because by the end I felt like I was giving way too much commentary and way too little in concrete detail. Also, you know, my whole premise was that both props were going to pass.

I was wrong about that, but it doesn’t count because I never posted it! On Tuesday both propositions failed miserably despite having more money spent on them than any prop in California’s history.

It’s a hilarious outcome, there’s just no other way to put it. Even as a recreational sports bettor who probably spends anywhere between $5,000-$10,000 per year annually on gambling (and gambling on sports), it never hurts my feelings to see incredibly wealthy corporations light a match and throw it on top of a big pile of their money. And when I say big, I really mean unconscionably so.

According to the LA Times something in the neighborhood of $420 million was spent either supporting or opposing Prop 27 — which would have allowed east coast companies like DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM to set up shop in California — and another $170 million (give or take) was spent either supporting or opposing Prop 26, which would have allowed tribal casinos to offer sports betting.

All in we are talking about roughly $600 million that just vanished. Visually it looks like this: 600,000,000. In writing it’s six multiplied by one hundred, multiplied by one hundred again, multiplied by one hundred again, multiplied by one hundred once more. If you make $35,000 per year, which the average Californian more or less earns, it would take you about 17,000 years to get to the $600 million mark. In other words, it’s a lot of fucking money.

Originally I was very on board for both props to pass, because again, I enjoy a good gamble from time to time. I figured if Prop 26 passed there would be more foot traffic in casinos (which couldn’t hurt my ability to make more in tips), and if Prop 27 passed I would be able to legally throw a few dollars on a sporting event from the convenience of my iPhone.

The closer we got to voting, however, I became less and less interested in seeing either prop become realized. After all, I am self-interested if nothing else. Part of Prop 26 was the allowance of real craps and real roulette at tribal casinos — two games that must be played with cards in California — and if 26 had passed it would mean that I, as a craps dealer, would be dealing that game every fucking day. The one standalone reason why I have made more money this year than any other of my professional life is specifically because I haven’t been dealing craps as often. Had 26 passed, I very likely would have made — off the top of my head — about $30,000 less per year.

I’m not at all sad to see Prop 27 fail, mostly because I think their advertising was disingenuous. For their signature ads they used Native Americans as props to hoodwink the public into thinking that all tribes were in favor of 27’s passing. In reality, something like 60 tribes and tribal organizations were against Prop 27, and only three (!) were in support. There’s that, and there’s also the fact that DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM promised to help California’s homeless situation (which they had no intention of actually following through with), and are nothing more than carpetbaggers from the east coast looking to strike gold out here.

In the end I think the disgusting amount of advertising both sides exercised worked to their detriment. After a while I imagine Californians were fatigued from seeing every TV ad revolving around 26 and 27. Maybe there’s a learning lesson in there somewhere. Maybe sports betting is simply destined to fail just as it has every other time they have tried it out here.

California’s politics are complicated. For most of the 21st century the real battle in this, my home state, has been between tribal casinos (which have only been around since the mid-1990’s) and card rooms (which have been in existence for like 150 years or some shit). Prop 26 and Prop 27 received so much more notoriety during this cycle due to the fact that vultures like DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM invested incredible sums of money — and had the most to gain out of this — and so after a while I believe the Native American tribes cared more about Prop 27’s failure than they did Prop 26’s success.

Again, shit’s complicated. One would think California could have benefitted quite a bit from the additional tax revenue from a multi-billion dollar industry such that sports betting is. But at the same time it’s already the biggest economy in the country, and one of a handful of the biggest in the world all by itself, so I don’t think the state’s government apparatus is exactly crying too hard over it. Governor Gavin Newsome feigned some support for the tribes, and apparently opposed Prop 27, but he was hardly pounding his fist on the table on either side.

California has enough money. It already has a budget surplus. Had the state been in dire straights, like so many others that have already legalized sports betting, one would figure they would have made these propositions a priority.

At any rate, despite my love for gambling and sports betting, I am not at all sad at the way this played out for reasons I have already mentioned. Being forced to deal craps every day would have been a death sentence to the gravy train I’ve been riding all during my 2022 campaign. I have no problem sacrificing my love for sports and playing real craps for a couple props that, if nothing else, certainly would have cost me more money than I would have brought in.