SACRAMENTO – Assemblyman Adam C. Gray (D-Merced), chairman of the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee, announced the introduction of ACA 16, a constitutional amendment to authorize sports wagering in California. ACA 16 is a response to the May 2018 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a 1992 federal law prohibiting sports betting in all states outside Nevada.
The decision did not legalize sports wagering nationwide, but permitted the activity to be regulated on a state-by-state basis. Currently, eight states allow legal sports wagering, and more than 35 are considering legislation.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has shouldered the burden of bringing legal clarity to the issue of sports wagering and the rights of states under the Constitution,” said Gray. “Now it is the responsibility of the Legislature to determine the most prudent way forward.”
Despite legal restrictions at the federal and state level, gambling on sports is growing in popularity. While it is difficult to track the popularity of illegal sports betting in the United States, reports have estimated that nearly $150 billion is illegally wagered on sports annually.
“Whether we like it or not, Californians are already betting on sports through illegal and often unscrupulous websites in foreign countries,” he said.
ACA 16 would require any legalization effort in California to achieve a two-thirds approval in the Legislature before being placed on the ballot for majority approval by voters.
“It is time to shine a light on this multibillion-dollar industry,” said Gray. “We need to crack down on illegal and unregulated online gaming and replace it with a safe and responsible option which includes safeguards against compulsive and underage gambling, money laundering, and fraud. All other gaming activities in California are subject to regulations that ensure the safety of consumers. Sports wagering should be treated no differently.»
Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa), chairman of the Senate Government Organization Committee, introduced a complementary amendment in the Senate.
“I look forward to working with stakeholders in a collaborative effort to help bring this out of the shadows,” said Dodd. “By legalizing sports wagering we can avoid some of the problems associated with an underground market such as fraud and tax evasion while investing in problem gambling education.”
The Assembly and Senate Governmental Organization Committees will conduct a series of Joint Informational Hearings on the future of sports wagering throughout California. The hearings and public comment process will provide opportunities for committee members to listen to interested persons and outside experts representing a broad and diverse range of viewpoints.
If approved by the Legislature, the legalization of sports wagering would be put the voters on the November 2020 ballot.