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California moves to allow legal bets on 49ers, other sports teams

Supreme Court lets states legalize sports betting in historic 6-3 decision

With a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that legalizing sports betting should be left up to each state.
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With a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that legalizing sports betting should be left up to each state.

California could soon legalize sports betting following a decision Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn federal law that outlawed the practice.

The high court's decision allows states to pass laws legalizing betting on football, basketball and baseball, among other sports. State Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, is now moving forward with a proposed constitutional amendment that would make sports gambling legal in California, said spokesman Adam Capper.

In a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court struck down the federal prohibition by overturning the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. Congress could still ban it.

"The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make," Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the court. "Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own."

Major sports leagues, including the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball, opposed the move. At present, Nevada is the only state to allow the practice.

But Californians already participate in sports betting, Gray has said, and the American Gaming Association estimates wagering at about $150 billion per year. By regulating the industry, California could then tax sports gambling.

"It is time to bring this multi-billion dollar industry out of the shadows," Gray said in a statement. "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's constitutional amendment will now be referred to the Assembly Committee on Governmental Organization, which he chairs. A hearing could come before the Legislature's summer recess. If it passes both houses, the proposal would then go to voters, perhaps at the November election.

"The decision by the Supreme Court affirms that the choice to legalize sports wagering is one for the states to make for themselves," Gray said. "The ball is in our court. California voters will now have to a make a decision whether or not to authorize sports wagering."

Meanwhile, a political fight is looming over where sports gambling will be allowed to take place – at brick-and-mortar places like tribal casinos, cardrooms and racetracks, and online. Tribes are already weighing in with interest.

"We view sports betting as a potential amenity that would complement our numerous offerings," Mark Macarro, chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, which operates a casino outside Temecula, said in a statement.

Online gambling operations are also making an early play.

DraftKings, a fantasy sports gambling site, moved Monday to enter the real-world sports gambling arena.

"This ruling gives us the ability to further diversify our product offerings," Jason Robbins, CEO and co-founder of DraftKings, said in a statement, adding that it is "welcome news to the millions of Americans who currently wager $150 billion illegally each year through offshore, black market bookies."

California’s cardroom industry, represented by the California Gaming Association, said the court decision provided "an exciting opportunity for California sports fans.

"The CGA stands ready to work with all stakeholders to create a new framework that will protect the integrity of the games, protect consumers, engage fans, and generate revenue to bolster local economies," Kyle Kirkland, president of the group, said in a statement.

Only one ‘no’ vote was cast against AB 1437 as the Assembly passed the measure on January 27, 2016. The bill ultimately died, but lawmakers in 2018 pushed ahead to legalize sports betting in California.

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