What Happens If Californians Approve Both Sports Betting Plans?


On Nov. 8, voters will have two choices to legalize California sports betting. One ballot question would allow mobile apps. The other would permit in-person betting at tribal casinos and racetracks but not on mobile apps. 

The ballot question with the most “yes” votes might win outright, but it’s possible both could take effect. A court probably will have to decide.

Competing Ballot Questions

Under Proposition 26 on the November ballot, bettors would be allowed to wager on sports in person at dozens of tribal casinos and the state’s four thoroughbred racetracks. Mobile apps would remain illegal.

The competing ballot question, Proposition 27, would let online bookmakers such as BetMGM, DraftKings and FanDuel Sportsbook partner with tribes in making mobile apps available for statewide sports betting.

Both sides are campaigning to win support, hoping for a higher vote total in case only one type of sports betting — mobile or on-site — will be allowed. With billions of dollars in sports betting revenue potentially in play, the stakes are high in the nation’s most populous state, home to 40 million people.

What The Law Says

Mary-Beth Moylan, associate dean for academic affairs at the McGeorge School of Law, told KCRA-TV that the California Constitution is clear about what happens with dueling ballot questions. 

“If there are two measures that conflict, and they both pass, the one that passes by a higher percentage of the vote takes effect and the other one does not,” she said.

However, a twist this year could require a court decision.

Moylan noted that the ballot question legalizing mobile apps has a sentence that says, “We the people of California declare that Proposition 27 does not conflict with proposition 26.”

The law school dean said she doesn’t know whether a court would decide that this ends any debate about whether the ballot questions conflict with each other. 

If voters say “yes” to both, and if a court decides the two plans aren’t in conflict, both would take effect. That means bettors could use mobile apps and wager in person at sportsbooks inside tribal casinos and racetracks.

“Courts will do an independent analysis about whether the provisions can be operational together, or whether implementing one would get in the way of implementing the other,” Moylan said.

Different Vote Combinations

Moylan said it is OK in November to vote “yes” on both ballot questions or “no” on both. It’s also OK to split the vote. “Voting ‘no’ on one and ‘yes’ on the other is fine,” she said.

She said the two proposals give Californians a say in whether they want sports betting or not. If they do, they have two choices — mobile betting apps or on-site only.

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