Care to make a wager on that? Californians could vote on legalizing sports betting

Californians could soon get to vote on whether to legalize sports betting.

Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, introduced a constitutional amendment Thursday that would lift the state’s prohibition on sports wagering. It would also apply new regulations to the industry.

“I look forward to working with stakeholders in a collaborative effort to help bring this out of the shadows,” Dodd said in prepared remarks. “By legalizing sports wagering we can avoid some of the problems associated with an underground market such as fraud and tax evasion while investing in problem gambling education.”

A constitutional amendment requires approval from two-thirds of both the Senate and Assembly, as well as approval from state voters.

Eight states allow sports wagering, according to Dodd’s office, while illegal betting is a $150 billion-a-year business.

Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, sponsored an identical amendment in the Assembly.

“We need to crack down on illegal and unregulated online gaming and replace it with a safe and responsible option which includes safeguards against compulsive and underage gambling, money laundering and fraud,” Gray said in a statement. “All other gaming activities in California are subject to regulations that ensure the safety of consumers. Sports wagering should be treated no differently.”

Dodd’s office said the proposed amendment follows a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2018 that overturned a federal ban on sports betting. The case, Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, centered on a challenge to the federal law by the state of New Jersey.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for the Sacramento Bee. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.