One of the San Francisco Bay Area’s leading news sources has published a scathing editorial against California sports betting, advocating no votes on both Prop 26 and Prop 27.
“The last thing California needs is more gambling,” the Mercury News wrote in an editorial published July 29. The paper warns against an industry that “often leaves behind a wake of family financial devastation involving tens of thousands of dollars of debt.”
Both Prop 26 and Prop 27 are on the ballot Nov. 8, when California residents will decide whether they want legalized sports betting, and what that legalized sports betting would look like.
The issue of legal sports betting in California, the world’s fifth largest economy, has been contentious.
Most Indian tribes in California back Prop 26, which would allow only in-person sports betting at California’s tribal casinos. Prop 27, meanwhile, would allow major sportsbook operators, such as DraftKings and FanDuel, to offer online sports betting in California if they partner with an in-state tribal casino.
What Do Californians Think of Sports Betting?
An opinion poll by the Sacramento Bee in February revealed that a plurality of California residents are likely to vote are in favor of sports betting in the state, with 45% in favor.
Supporters and detractors, backed by large organizations and corporations on both sides of the issue, have spent tens of millions to lobby for and advertise to the public for passage or defeat of Prop 26 and Prop 27. The outcome could have impact beyond the California borders.
“A lot of people basically think the rest of the country will legalize if California does,” Oklahoma State professor John Holden told Politico in March.
The sports betting market in California, with nearly 40 million residents in the 2020 census, would potentially shatter all previous revenue standards. Since January, New York has topped $1 billion in total handle (all sports bets accepted) in every month. California’s economy is nearly twice the size of New York’s.
Mercury News Fears Problem Gambling in California
Under the headline “California doesn’t need more gambling, vote no on Props. 26, 27,” the Mercury News editorial board presented its argument against allowing the sports betting industry into the state. Earlier this year, New York launched sports betting successfully and has quickly grown into the most active market in the country. But the Mercury News isn’t convinced that the industry would be healthy for Californians.
“A 2006 statewide survey found that nearly 4% of California adults were problem or pathological gamblers at some point in their lives,” the editorial stated, further writing that the “prevalence was particularly high for Black people and individuals who are disabled or unemployed — who can least afford the financial devastation of gambling addiction.”
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The editorial also cited lack of support for problem gambling resources as evidence that California is not prepared for what may come. It wrote that, “the state Office of Problem Gambling receives only a paltry $8.6 million a year to cover all gambling addiction and treatment services.”
The Mercury News is published by the Bay Area News Group, a subsidiary of Digital First Media, which owns and operates several news media/newspaper companies in California and elsewhere. Only a decade ago, the Mercury News was the fifth-largest newspaper in the country, but as the industry has suffered losses in subscribers and relevance, the paper has seen a decline in readers.
Further complicating matters is the fact that Californians can vote yes on both Prop 26 and Prop 27, which leaves some confusion over which law would take effect. Legal experts believe a legal battle will ensue regardless of how the vote turns out in November.