Two bills presently in a hold pattern in the California legislature have been boosted by the results of a recent field poll. Legalizing sports betting is favored by 58 percent of all registered voters – a 23 percentage-point margin over opponents – receiving thumbs up from both genders and all age groups, political parties and religions sampled, the Field Poll found. Online poker, a separate option for expanding gambling in California, also received more support than opposition in the Field Poll but by a much tighter margin – four percentage points.
In California, Senate Bill 1390, proposed by Inglewood Democratic state Sen. Rod Wright in February to legalize sports betting if Congress alters the federal ban or it is thrown out in court. It passed the Senate 32-2 in late May, and has moved onto the Assembly. Senate Bill 1463, languishing in the Legislature, would allow Californians to play poker on state-sanctioned websites. Gov. Jerry Brown has not indicated if he will sign either of the bills if one or both pass both houses.
Legalizing sports wagering in California would accelerate any showdown with the federal government over the issue. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 banned sports gambling in all but four states. In Nevada – the obvious sportsbook king of the U.S. – casino visitors wagered about $2.87 billion on sporting events in 2011. Gross gaming revenue for Nevada’s sports books last year was $140.7 million, equal to 4.9 percent of the total wagered. The other exempted states are Oregon, Montana and Delaware, where operating sports lotteries are legal. Sports excluded from the act jai alai, horse racing and dog racing.