03/04/2012 7:03PM

Legislation to allow sports betting at California racetracks introduced


Legislation that would permit sports betting in California at racetracks and simulcast locations has been introduced in the California Senate, but faces formidable obstacles at the state and federal levels.

There is currently a federal ban on sports betting in states other than Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon. The federal bill is being challenged in some states.

California Senate Bill 1390, introduced on Feb. 24, is sponsored by Sen. Roderick Wright, the chairman of the influential governmental organization committee. The bill could be heard by Wright’s committee this spring, but faces several stages of committee hearings, and expected opposition from major sport leagues, before reaching a potential vote.

A date for the first committee hearing has not been set, according to the legislature’s website.

The legislation would allow racing facilities and Native American casinos to conduct sports betting, pending approval by the California Horse Racing Board or California Gaming Control Commission. The latter oversees tribal casinos and card rooms. Under the proposed legislation, betting would not be allowed via the phone or Internet.

The legislation is the latest attempt by California racetracks to find a new revenue stream for the sport. A referendum in 2004 to allow slot machines at racetrack was defeated.

Subsequent legislative efforts have focused on increasing takeout on exotic bets, which was approved in 2010. Revenue from higher takeout was used to fund purses.

The same bill allowed for exchange betting. The racing board held a committee meeting on exchange betting last month, with several racing groups expressing opposition to its implementation later this year.