Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that states could legalize sports betting, California, a state of 40 million people and numerous professional teams, has been a big white whale, eschewing the tribal communities where gambling companies and casinos are located. That’s about $3.1 billion in annual revenue, according to an industry consulting firm.
So it should come as no surprise that voters this fall will be faced with not one but two ballot proposals aimed at taking over the California sports betting market. Although neither seem to receive strong support Public support, but gambling addiction experts are far more worried about one than the other.
Backed by some of the largest tribal casino owners in the state, Proposition 26 would allow sports betting, but only on existing brick-and-mortar venues and racetracks that already offer gambling. By contrast, Proposition 27, designed and funded by national corporate gambling sites such as DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM, would legalize online sports betting, essentially betting on people on games—as well as athletes and games within games— Open the door – whether they’re sitting in the stands or on the couch.
Each measure may increase problem gambling and gambling addiction, but mental health experts say the sheer convenience of online betting – points, total player points, penalties in a match Numbers, and pretty much everything else related to sporting events — increases the chance of trouble.
“You’re not going to be addicted to fantasy football all season; you’re going to be addicted to in-game betting,” said Dr. Timothy Fong, a psychiatrist and co-director of the UCLA Gambling Research Program. “Instead of betting on Rams-Chargers games, I can now place unlimited bets directly from my phone.”
Sports betting is already legal in some form in 36 states and Washington, D.C. , Michigan, Connecticut, New York and other states saw a surge in calls to gambling hotlines after allowing this form of gambling. The National Problem Gambling Helpline Network reported a 45% year-over-year increase in inquiries in 2021, when 11 states introduced some new forms of sports betting.
Although gambling addiction does not involve the ingestion of drugs or chemicals, it does involve stimulation of areas of the brain just like other addictive disorders. The American Psychiatric Association classifies gambling in this category, putting it in the same category as tobacco, alcohol, cocaine, marijuana and opioids. Studies have shown that mesolimbic dopamine released by pathological gamblers provides the brain with feelings of reward and pleasure compared to controls. Gamblers are hooked on this reward.
For many states, the temptation is obvious: taxes. In 2020, Pennsylvania earned $38.7 million from gambling, three-quarters of which came from mobile sports betting. California’s nonpartisan Office of Legislative Analysis estimates that if Proposition 27 passes, the state will collect hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes each year, but it may not exceed $500 million a year. The office puts Proposition 26 state revenue in the tens of millions of dollars a year. Some of that money comes from a 10 percent tax on sports wagering at racetracks, and some could come from tribal casinos, which would require renegotiating compacts with the state.
For weeks, Californians have been bombarded with competing ads in the fight for what has become the nation’s most expensive voting initiative, worth $400 million and counting. The fight could turn voters away. A recent poll by the UC Berkeley Institute for Government found that 42 percent of likely voters opposed Proposition 26, compared with 31 percent who supported it. Support for Proposition 27 was even lower, with 53 percent of likely voters disapproving and just 27 percent supporting it.
Both ballot measures provide limited new resources to help people with gambling problems or addictions, and neither requires
Prop 26’s The authors include a provision to allocate 10 percent of sports betting revenues at racetracks to the state Department of Public Health, some of which are used to “prevent and treat problem gambling,” according to materials provided to KHN by the initiative’s backers. But tracks have been in decline for decades, and their share of sports betting will be the smallest. In addition, the amount the tribal casino may generate is uncertain, as it will depend on whether the new covenant requires additional payments and direct funds for the treatment program.
Kathy Fairbanks, spokeswoman who voted in favor of the Proposition 26 campaign noted that tribes have contributed about $65 million a year to the state Gambling Control Commission, which funds the Office of Problem Gambling. “Before tribes played casino gambling in California more than 20 years ago, there wasn’t a dedicated fund for problem gambling,” Fairbanks said. California has been betting on racetracks since the 1930s, and the lottery began in 1985.
Proposition 27 would require participating companies to pay the state 10% of gross gambling revenue. Of that, 85 percent will be earmarked for homelessness and mental health programs, including programs for problem gambling.
Nathan Click, a spokesman for the Yes on 27 movement, said the plan would create the “strongest problem gaming safeguard for online sports betting in the country” and would require employees at each licensed gambling platform to accept guidelines on how to Training to spot problem gambling.
But psychologists say online gambling is instant, accessible and almost effortless. Anyone with a phone, tablet or computer can use a credit card to get started. And there are virtually no betting limits on a single game, even while the game is in progress.
“People don’t get addicted to Mega Millions,” Fong said. “They’re addicted to scratch games and bet more every minute.”
One way the gambling industry entices people to keep playing is through promotional credits that basically allow them to get started without spending their own money Bet. Rick Benson, founder of Algamus Gambling Treatment Services, said “free-to-play” offers are not only common in casinos, but are also heavily marketed on websites and social media, potentially tricking new gamblers into thinking they have nothing to lose.
This makes Proposition 27 a bigger problem. Researchers at McGill University and the Oregon Research Institute have found that online gaming is a pathway to behavioral disorders, including problem gambling, which is characterized by continued gambling despite the negative impact on a person’s life, or a complete addiction, which is beyond control. Gambling can lead to devastating outcomes such as bankruptcy, mental health and family problems, and substance abuse.
As Proposition 26 restricts wagering to casinos and racetracks, it may moderate activity. “Research shows that gambling participation is in some ways related to access,” said Robert Jacobson, executive director of the California Commission on Problem Gambling. “Once people are within 50 to 60 miles of a casino, the participation rate goes up.”
However, how Proposition 26 will affect gambling prevalence is unclear, as the provision also provides for tribal Casinos have added Vegas-style games like roulette and craps.
People also don’t understand how big the gambling addiction problem is in California, mainly because the state’s Problem Gambling Office hasn’t updated its data since 2006. In August, a state audit announced that the office, with an annual budget of about $8.5 million, “did not effectively evaluate its programs.” The office doesn’t know how many California residents are experiencing or have recently experienced gambling-related problems.
However, addiction researchers believe the problem is persistent, with about 4% of residents experiencing gambling-related problems. Problem gambling or gambling addiction. That equates to about 1.6 million Californians who may have a gambling problem, although the number is likely much higher, as less than one in 10 people with a gambling disorder seek treatment.
These two moves will amend the Constitution so the legislature can enact new sports betting laws. State agencies will then have to develop regulations to implement sports betting, which experts say could be influenced by gambling interests.
“The ballot,” Jacobson said, “just before the campaign ends.”
This story was published by KHN of California Healthline Produced, it is an independent editorial service of the California Healthcare Foundation.