The Prop 27 campaign is changing tactics in what seems to be an uphill battle to pass the online sports betting ballot initiative, according to reporting by the San Francisco Chronicle.
With the Nov. 8 election just under seven weeks away, Californians will see far fewer ads in support of Prop 27 or that attack Prop 26. The Prop 27 campaign has halted television ad buys, Joe Garofoli of the Chronicle reported this week.
Apparently, the strategy of Yes on 27 is shifting to direct communication, such as digital ads and direct mail to voters. If passed, Prop 27 would legalize online sports betting in California, and allow operators like BetMGM, DraftKings, and FanDuel to offer their apps in what is expected to be the largest sports betting market in North America.
This move comes roughly a week after an independent poll from the Public Policy Institute of California revealed 54% of likely California voters planned to vote no on Prop 27, and only 34% planned to vote yes.
Debate has raged from opponents to Prop 27, as well as supporters of Prop 26, regarding the power that out-of-state sports betting companies would have if the measure passes. The issue of homelessness has also been injected into the discussion, with both ballot proposals claiming tax revenue would help, but disagreeing on how much.
Prop 26 would also legalize sports betting, but only in-person at Indian casinos and four licensed California horse racetracks. The Democratic and Republican parties of California both oppose Prop 27 in a rare sign of solidarity.
The decision by Prop 27 supporters to try new tactics just less than seven weeks from the election lends credence to some claims that the initiative is in trouble.
What Change in Ad Strategy Means for Prop 27
It’s not a good sign when a tactical change is made in a political campaign so late in the election cycle. Voters will go to the polls on Nov. 8, faced with two ballot initiatives that would legalize sports betting.
Prop 27 argues that a model based on what is seen in many other states with legal sports betting would be ideal. By offering online betting through popular sports apps that have proven to be successful in other jurisdictions, they claim, California’s treasury will reap the benefits in the form of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue annually.
As of Sept. 21, $169.2 million (all from US sportsbook companies) had been spent on the Prop 27 campaign, according to the California Secretary of State’s database. Proponents have had to fight the argument that Prop 27 would line the pockets of large gambling companies and benefit only the largest, most prosperous California tribes.
A loss for Prop 27 in the largest state in the US would be egg on the face of the large sports betting companies, who have pumped millions into California in hopes of opening the market. But opponents have merged together with strength, as pro-Prop 26 and anti-Prop 27 spending combined was at $200.9 million as of Sept. 21
However, according to the Yes on 27 spokesperson Nathan Click, a lobbyist and former communications official for California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Prop 27 is far from dead.
“Clearly, the saturated television market is not benefiting either side, so our campaign is putting those dollars toward additional direct communication with voters in order to pass Prop. 27 — the only sports betting measure that provides real solutions to communities and non-profit organizations in California,” Click told the Chronicle.
Will This Strategy Work?
If Click is correct, and the reduced TV ad buys is an effort to reframe the argument away from the vitriol of constant commercials beaming into living rooms, Prop 27 could stand a chance. That Public Policy Institute of California has 12% of likely California voters say they were undecided on Prop 27, so there’s still gains to be made.
Prop 26’s chances aren’t a whole lot better than Prop 27’s at this point. In August, independent research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming released a report in which it gave a “less than 50%” of either ballot measure passing. And just this week, online crypto prediction market Polymarket listed markets on the likelihood of Prop 26 or Prop 27 passing. As of the morning of Sept. 21, with market prices translated to percentages, Prop 27 had a 69% chance of failing and Prop 26 had a 64% chance of failing.
If neither Prop 27 or Prop 26 passes, supporters of sports betting in California will have to regroup. It’s possible only a compromise will result in success. But can the two sides play nice if neither is successful at the ballot this November?