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California Dodges a Bullet

ACCORDING TO LIZ - In voting down Props 26 and 27, Californians protected our state from the lies and losses of the gaming industry, and its inhabitants from a lifetime of addictive behavior that tears lives and families apart.

Here in Los Angeles, we may have been biting our nails for weeks over the results of the mayoral race but there was no question over who won these state measures – the people. 

Prop 26 lost 63.6% to 36.4%

Prop 27 lost 79.84% to 20.16% 

Proposition 26 was promoted as benefiting indigenous tribes with a sweetener of a 10% tax to help families around the state. Pah! 

Tight restrictions on games of chance protect our families by avoiding the risk of gambling addiction and the other bad habits that are exacerbated in such venues – drinking, stress, and doing anything to excess. 

These are called games of chance for a very good reason – there is a very small chance that Joe Q Public will take home a few dollars… and a much bigger chance that his pocket will be filled with IOUs. Debts that transfer to less money for healthcare, poorer quality of food on the table, and the loss of the roof over his family’s head. 

Proposition 27 was a sick joke with the moniker of “Legalize Sports Betting and Revenue for Homelessness Prevention Fund” with the same low-ball 10% tax wrapped in the oh-so-noble commitment that it would be used to help support homelessness programs. 

Groups who stood to profit – mostly out-of-state consortiums – wrote this prop to maximize their profits. 10% is the lowest tax of any state with legalized gambling; New York pulls in 51%. 

Showing how out of touch this campaign is with reality, Indian bands themselves strongly opposed this as greedy out-of-state gambling corporations threaten tribal income needed to lift their people out of poverty. 

Truth

In 2018, the Supreme Court overturned the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act which banned states from authorizing sports gambling, with a very narrow exception for individual games through the Vegas sportsbooks. 

The lawsuit was brought by politicians with $$ in their eyes as a solution to deficits racked up by their poor fiscal management of state budgets. 

Something for nothing – everyone desires it but few beyond those already wealthy or with pricey lawyers or lobbyists have a hope in hell of achieving and retaining a red cent more than that for which they work. 

Winning the lottery, being born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth, twisting the arms of politicians to enact tax laws in one’s favor, theft and extortion, becoming a monopoly or “too big to fail” so as to extract public funds from the government – is this the American Dream? 

Professional sports are part of a multi-billion-dollar enterprise concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. Betting on games is now allowed in 41 states and the District of Columbia with five more states ramping up to jump into the (blood) bath. 

Not in California. Yet. 

Their forces are strong, so Californians must insist all candidates for public office up and down the food chain refuse any campaign or other contributions from the syndicates behind the betting bubble. 

Including the tokenism of taking their money to address causes like education and the homelessness crisis. That Anthony Rendon and Toni Atkins signed on to Prop 27 further justifies that they be thrown out of office at the first available opportunity. 

And if it does come to that, our state politicians would be wise to follow the examples set by New Hampshire and New York where the governments pull in 51% of online bets placed, or Delaware and Rhode Island where half of the money spent goes to the state. 

The American Gaming Association dangled the promise of more than $40 million a year in tax revenues under the noses of Michigan legislators based on an 8.4% tax rate. What did they see in 2021, the first year of online sports betting? Just $21 million. 

Gambling profiteers press states to keep tax rates low (so they would get more of the pie), claiming higher taxes would push sports fans to hit up the wild west of unregulated online sites and the states would get nada. But even with its super-high tax rate of 51%, New York vacuumed up $546 million in the first ten months of 2022. 

And Consequences

Those freebies the gambling industry offers to get people hooked? Nothing goes to the state, and they still have to pick up the pieces of broken families, lost jobs and gutted bank accounts with no money to pay state taxes. 

And what about regulating the industry and its operators? Who is paying for that? Can we really count on the gambling profiteers to police themselves? 

What about consumer protections? 

At least eight universities in Michigan, Colorado and Louisiana have partnered with these companies in return for “donations.” Do parents send their kids off to college to come home with a gambling addiction? 

California’s residents did the right thing last month, but what about their children at school in other states, where at least one university is extending the right to gamble to the under-21 crowd where the excitement may exceed caution and common sense and destroy futures. 

If the love of money is the root of all evil, we cannot stand idly by and allow our elected leaders to fan the flames of greed and addiction. 

These companies are now angling to bring betting to people’s smart phones nationwide – but how smart is it for those hungry for a little extra cash to be able to empty their bank accounts on iBlackjack and iPoker?

 

(Liz Amsden is a contributor to CityWatch and an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions.  In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)