With both Prop 26 and Prop 27 headed for likely defeat in California in next week’s election, it’s a good time to evaluate how much was spent on a flawed effort to legalize sports betting in CA.
Flawed and costly.
Supporters of Prop 26 and Prop 27 have spent more than $450 million supporting their chosen ballot initiative, or attacking the other. Yet, a late-October survey conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California indicated voters are likely to give a big thumbs down to both at the ballot box on Nov. 8. (Just 36% support for Prop 26, and 24% for Prop 27.)
The record amount of money spent on these opposing propositions, each of which would legalize sports betting in California in some fashion, is staggering.
How staggering? Here are some jaw-dropping facts about just how much money $450 million is. What else could that pay for?
More Money Than Cost of First Star Wars Trilogy
When George Lucas made Star Wars, he had to create much of the special effects he wanted for his space opera. He spent $11 million making that film, which was stupendously popular.
Two more Star Wars movies (The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) followed within the next six years, completing the wildly successful trilogy. The combined cost for those three films was $74 million. Adjusting those 1977-1983 budgets, we arrive at $377 million in 2022 dollars …
… or about $63 million less than has been spent on Prop 26 and Prop 27 in California.
To paraphrase Yoda: “Appalled, we are!”
BETTER LUCK IN 2024: How the Prop 26 and Prop 27 Campaigns Failed So Badly in California
Much More Than US Paid for the Louisiana Purchase
Kevin Sabellico, campaign manager for the mayor of Encinitas, pointed out on his Twitter account that far more has been spent on the dueling proposals than the Louisiana Purchase.
To be precise, 15% more, according to Sabellico. The US paid $15 million to France in 1803 for the Louisiana Purchase. Adjusted to 2022 dollars, that would be $343 million, or about $100 million less than what the supporters of Prop 26 and Prop 27 have poured into the political effort to bring sports betting to California.
That means Prop 26 and Prop 27 funding has cost 15% more than what our government spent on 25% of the continental US land mass.
Hulu for Everyone!
Put another way: Instead of spending what they did on Prop 26 and Prop 27, the competing sides in California could have funded 3 months of Hulu for every household in the US.
Hulu is offering a 3-month trial for $3. With 123.6 million households, that would equate to $370.8 million to pay for that online service for every home in the country. That’s 90 free days of binge-watching The Handmaid’s Tale or American Horror Stories and many other programs for everyone in America.
WHAT’S NEXT? Potential California Sports Betting Bonuses
77% Chance to Win the Lottery
How about the Powerball Lottery? Want to enhance your chances to win what is currently a $1.2 billion jackpot?
There are 292,201,338 possible combinations in Powerball’s numbers. Each entry is $2. So, if you spent the $450 million that’s been poured into supporting Prop 26 and Prop 27 in California, you could theoretically buy 77% of all the possible combinations (225,000,000 of them). That would give you better than a 3-in-4 chance of winning or sharing the top prize.
Here are some other comparisons to show just how much $450 million is.
Dodgers and Padres 2022 Payroll
In addition to being nearly half a billion dollars, $450 million is more than the Los Angeles Dodgers (second-highest payroll in MLB) and San Diego Padres (fifth-highest) spent on their player salaries combined for 2022.
SPEAKING OF THE DODGERS … Which CA All-Time MLB Team Would Win the Most Games?
Leonardo DiCaprio Net Worth
It’s roughly 50% more than the net worth of movie star Leonardo DiCaprio ($300 million), Hollywood’s top box office attraction.
What $450 Million Could Do for Students
There are roughly 2 million children in California under the age of 5, according to the 2020 US census. Each of them could have received $220 for school supplies, or a winter coat, or shoes, or to put into a savings account for college.
Statue of Liberty
The whopping amount spent on the proposals that would legalize sports betting in different ways in California is shocking when compared to other historical expenditures. Adjusted for inflation, the $450 million spent on Prop 26 and Prop 27 is roughly 90 times what the Statue of Liberty cost France to construct before it gave it to the US.
IF PROP 27 PASSES … These 10 Sportsbooks Would Be Eligible for CA Online Sports Betting Licenses
Da Vinci Art
In 2017, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” painting sold for $440 million (before handling fees). That is just less than what sports betting companies, card rooms, and tribes have spent on the ballot proposals that California voters will decide on next Tuesday.
NHL’s Arizona Coyotes
That amount of money nearly approaches what you’d need to buy a major professional sports team. The NHL”s Arizona Coyotes, according to Sportico, are valued at $465 million.
Both Prop 26 and Prop 27 Likely Headed for Failure
Prop 26 would legalize sports betting but only at tribal casinos and California’s four licensed horse racetracks.
In contrast, Prop 27, which is supported and funded largely by sports betting operators like DraftKings and FanDuel, would legalize online sports betting. As a result, sportsbooks would be able to entice customers in what is the world’s fifth-largest economy.
But both ballot proposals are almost certainly headed for defeat.
Why are Prop 26 and Prop 27 certain to fail in spite of the oodles of money spent on both?
Dan Walters of the Santa Monica Daily Press recently summed it up nicely when he identified the inherent way each ballot initiative defied the structure of successful campaigns from the past.
Typically, Walters noted, a California ballot proposal will “identify some problem — real or imagined — and attempt to persuade voters that their proposals would solve it.”
But, continued Walters, Prop 26 and Prop 27 “sharply diverge from that pattern. Instead, they want California voters to create new ways to waste their money by wagering on sports events.”
It can’t be understated how the huge spending by both propositions and negative ads have impacted popular opinion. For some, the competing marketing campaigns for what they view as a marginal activity that would benefit only the few in the state, and lead to little revenue to state coffers, was nauseating.
In the end the $450 million spent may have all been for naught.