Major League Baseball became the most prominent supporter of Prop 27 last week when the league publicly announced it was endorsing the mobile sportsbook-led initiative in the California sports betting debate. It’s the first professional sports league to insert itself into the Prop 26 vs. Prop 27 battle.
And that battle is close as the November election looms.
Prop 26, which would allow only in-person betting at California’s tribal casinos, has California tribes, major education organizations, and top state lawmakers behind it. Prop 27, which would allow online sports betting, has major sportsbooks, homelessness organizations, and the majority of interested California sports bettors behind it.
So any extra support, or opposition, can make a world of difference.
Just what type of impact could MLB endorsing Prop 27 have on the election?
CA SPORTS BETTING: Prop 27 Could Launch CA Online Sports Betting By September 2023
MLB Joins California Sports Betting Fight
Last week, MLB released a statement throwing support behind Prop 27. The measure would legalize online sports betting, of which 85% of its tax revenue would go to funding mental health, homelessness, and gambling addiction in California. The other 15% would go toward non-gaming tribes in the state.
MLB also praised the potential for the initiative to bring a safe and responsible online sports betting market to California.
“As legalized sports betting continues to expand across the country, Major League Baseball remains committed to protecting the integrity of its games and creating a safe experience for fans who wish to wager on those games,” MLB said in a statement released last Friday. “Proposition 27 — the only measure on California’s upcoming ballot that would authorize and regulate online sports betting — includes strong integrity provisions designed to help MLB carry out those commitments.”
MLB listed three primary reasons for supporting the measure.
- First, MLB said that the rules envisioned by Prop 27 would require sportsbook operators to report any suspicious wagering activity they find.
- Second, the measure would allow sports leagues to propose restrictions on specific betting markets, especially those susceptible to manipulation.
- Third, the measure would facilitate cooperation between sports leagues, operators, and the state.
What MLB’s Endorsement of Prop 27 Could Mean for November Election
This endorsement is potentially significant for supporters of Prop 27. MLB holds credibility that could sway voters.
According to polling conducted by Statista, 20% of voting age adults in the US are avid fans of MLB and 34% are casual fans. When you apply that combined 54% to the population of California (39.4 million), where there are five MLB teams (Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Oakland A’s), that equates to 21.3 million people.
Obviously, not all 21.3 million people will vote. Not all will want to bet on sports. But it gives you a sense of the weight an MLB position could carry in the election.
MLB is already partnered with major sportsbooks, including DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, FOX Bet, and Bet365. Those partnerships, and more, bring the league lots of money. So it only makes sense MLB would support Prop 27. That is the measure that would lead to more California sports betting revenue. Experts estimate that a mature online sports betting market in California could generate as much as $3 billion in annual revenue.
Money talks, and through its partnerships with sportsbooks, MLB would get more money from the massive California sports betting market if Prop 27 passes.
Legalized sports betting via major sportsbooks could also impact fans’ experience at the ballpark. In states with legal sports betting, teams have partnered with sportsbooks. Many of them have also built or are building retail sportsbooks adjacent to their stadiums and feature sportsbook advertising in their ballparks and on television.
Prop 26 would only allow retail sportsbooks at California tribal casinos and the state’s four horse racetracks. Prop 27 only allows online sports betting, but it would give major US sportsbooks quicker access to California. That would presumably allow MLB teams to partner with companies like DraftKings and FanDuel to establish retail sportsbooks sooner.
Pro Sports Leagues Embracing Online Sports Betting
MLB and other sports leagues have transitioned from intensely opposing sports betting to actively supporting it through several partnerships and agreements with betting operators in their respective leagues.
Most of the most popular pro sports leagues in the US, including MLB, NFL, NBA, and NASCAR, have come out in support of legalized gambling in recent years. Many of them have created jobs designed to support the expansion and inclusion of sports betting in their respective leagues.
I previously spoke with Joe Solosky, NASCAR’s managing director of sports betting. He says it wasn’t until 2019 that NASCAR started to embrace the sports betting culture. But since then, NASCAR has been all-in.
“Integrity was the first deal (partnership) we signed as a league in the sports betting space,” Solosky said. “From there, we found a data supplier. We found a partnership with responsible gambling as well for our fans. And then, over the last two years, we’ve signed four different sportsbooks to be partners of ours.”
Diving into the sports betting world has its challenges. However, Solosky says it is a tremendous opportunity to grow their fanbase.
“What I like about this role is that I’m encouraged to be aggressive about how we approach it because it’s ultimately a way for us to get new fans,” Solosky said. “By exposing that sports betting audience to a compelling NASCAR offering so that they might watch it on TV and then come to the track. And once you come to the track, you’re locked in.”
Californians will also be able to vote on the opposing Prop 26, which would legalize sports betting only at CA tribal casinos and horse racetracks.