California · Politics

Sitting this hand out? Vegas M.I.A. in Calif. sports betting legalization fight

The question has confounded the Nevada gaming industry since the mid-1990s.

Does gaming expansion in neighboring California pose an economic threat to the state’s casinos?

California voters, who approved tribal casino expansion in 1998, will have another chance to weigh in on the Golden State’s gaming future in November.

The choice could consist of three ballot questions to legalize sports betting. The initiatives have different support groups and provide various wagering options.

A coalition of nearly two dozen tribal casino operators wants approval for just retail sportsbooks inside their properties. Seven of the nation’s largest sports betting operators, meanwhile, are backing a referendum to allow mobile and online sports betting. Three other tribal casinos are pushing a mobile sports betting bill that would allow the tribes to operate the activity while prohibiting the inclusion of out-of-state sportsbook operators.

California, with a population of nearly 40 million, is the largest of the 17 states still without legal sports betting. According to the American Gaming Association, it is one of 11 states with either pre-filed legislation or a pending ballot question related to expanded sports betting.

Sports betting proponents predict big dollar signs for the Golden State, but if history repeats itself, that may not spell doom and gloom for the Silver State’s gaming cash flow. Nevada gaming companies are largely staying out of the fray — at least for now — and analysts are not sounding alarm bells yet.

After all, Nevada has seen gaming proliferate beyond its borders for years now.

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Staff reports from The San Joaquin Valley Sun staff.