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Is California Going to Legalize Sports Gambling?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on July 27, 2017 11:15 AM

It's safe to say that the tide of public perception of sports gambling has turned in the last ten or twenty years. With the rise of fantasy sports and March Madness, the image of placing bets on sporting events has changed from seedy mob-affiliated bookies to Karen from accounting throwing a few bucks into an office pool. And states, perhaps eyeing the money to be made from legalized sports betting, have begun pushing back on the federal restrictions on gambling.

California is just the latest, with Assembly Constitutional Amendment 18, a proposed bill that would change the state's constitution, paving the way for legalized sports gambling in the Golden State.

Golden State Gamblers

The Amendment was introduced by Assemblyman Adam Gray, who has previously advocated legalized online poker and daily fantasy betting. "It is time to bring this multibillion dollar industry out of the shadows," Gray said. "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."

Of course, those multibillions would also go into state coffers, rather than casinos or private hands. The bill would need a two-thirds majority in California's congress, after which it would go to state voters. But there's another potential hitch: federal law.

Betting on the Feds

The Amendment is explicit: "This measure would authorize the Legislature to permit sports wagering only if a change in federal law occurs to authorize sports wagering in this state." Part of that federal law is PASPA, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, that makes it illegal for any governmental entity to "sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law or compact ... a lottery, sweepstakes, or other betting, gambling, or wagering scheme based ... on one or more competitive games in which amateur or professional athletes participate."

New Jersey is currently battling that law in the Supreme Court, and Gray is betting on California being ready in case federal sports gambling prohibitions go bust.

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