Could A Recall Election Boost California Sports Betting Bill?

It looks to be almost a certainty that California will be conducting a gubernatorial recall vote for only the second time in the history of the state. In 2003, Democratic Governor Gray Davis was recalled and in the recall election, actor Arnold Swarzenegger, a Republican, was elected Governor.

This time around, a portion of the population was upset enough by the COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions put in place by Governor Gavin Newsom that supporters of Newsom’s recall were able to garner the necessary signatures – 1,626,042 in total, or 12 percent of the total votes cast in the previous ballot – to trigger an election.

There are those in the state who believe the recall election could benefit another state measure currently stuck in limbo – attempts to legalize sports betting in California. Several bills have been put forth over the years to make this happen, but none have proven able to garner enough widespread support in order to reach the finish line and be passed into law.

State legislators were resigned to the fact that they’d be forced to wait until the 2022 midterm elections in order to attempt to get a referendum on sports betting put in front of California voters. However, now with the potential for a recall election looming large, there’s a belief that a sports betting referendum could become part of the recall ballot.

When Will Recall Election Happen?

California is just one of 19 states to enable voters the power to recall elected state officials and remove them from office before they’ve completed their term. Over the years, attempts to recall the state’s governor have been set into motion on 55 occasions. Just one has succeeded. 

This is the sixth Republcan-led attempt to oust Newsom and it looks as though this one has the legs to actually happen. The signature threshold was reached in April. Under state law, anyone who signed is given 30 days to remove their names from the list.

If enough names aren’t removed, the next step will be for state officials to determine a cost for the recall election. Following that, California’s lieutenant-governor would be charged with a task of setting a date for the vote.

In the ballot, voters would be asked two questions. Firstly, do they want Newsom removed from office? Secondly, if yes, then who do they want to see as his replacement? More than 50 percent of voters must cast a yes ballot on the first question. Otherwise, the second question is rendered moot.

Already, former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, businessman John Cox and ex-Olympic decathlete and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner have entered the race. Cox lost the last election to Newsome by 24 points.

At this stage, the belief is that Newsom is in a safe place. He garnered more than 60 percent of support when he won election to the Governor’s office. Recent polling showed that 56 percent of California voters opposed the removal of Newsom from office, while another 5 percent were undecided. 

Also of note is that no Democrat has thrown their hat into the ring for the potential recall race. All elements of the party currently remain united in their support of Newsom. 

Sports Betting Conundrum

A number of forces are seeking to push the discussion on whether California should legalize betting on sports to the decision stage. 

A coalition of California tribes initiated the process to gain enough signatures to get a referendum that would legalize in-person sports betting at California’s 69 tribal casinos and four horse racetracks as part of the November 2022 midterm ballot. However, with the potential for a recall election in 2021, there’s a chance that this referendum could be added to that ballot.  

There’s also word that a coalition of national betting operators and California-based pro sports franchises are working in conjunction to develop a referendum of their own. California is home to more pro sports teams than any state in the union. They hope to get approval for the legalization of mobile sports in the state, along with the ability to house betting sites inside pro sports stadiums, similar to the system recently approved in nearby Arizona.

What Next?

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