There are probably no good guys in the November ballot fight over gambling measures Props 26 and 27, but there is a record $425 million going into ads from tribes and online sportsbooks determined to grab financial control of internet sports betting in California.

We are past Labor Day and heading into mid-September, which means election advertisements galore disrupting your football-watching and fall TV premiere season. And considering that there is, sigh, yet another goddamned kidney dialysis measure on your November ballot, you’d figure dialysis ads will dominate the state election advertisement landscape.

But no! A dueling pair of gambling measures is raising more money than the previous most expensive measure Prop 22 in 2020, which pulled in around $224 million in contributions. These are Props 26 and 27; and as KGO explains, Prop 26 would allow sports betting only at Native American-run casinos (and a few horse race tracks), Prop 27 would allow online sports gambling from sites like FanDuel and DraftKings, giving some percentage of proceeds to the tribes.

Despite the other barrage of gambling ads you often see in sports broadcasts, Californians currently cannot technically place bets on DraftKings and FanDuel. Those platforms only allow Californians to play in Fantasy sports leagues, which do offer some payout. Prop 27 would open the floodgates to all forms of sports betting on those platforms, Prop 26 would allow you to make those bets in-person only at tribal casinos.

And as the Chronicle reports, both sides are using very misleading ads to avoid saying the above, and instead framing the issues as “real solutions for the homelessness crisis" and "stand with tribes."

The most money is being pumped into the “Yes on 27" ads. The ad above speciously claims that “Tribal leaders urge you to vote Yes on Prop 27.” Well, maybe a couple of them do. But as the Chronicle notes, “By ‘some,’ that means three of California’s tribes support the ballot measure. The No on 27 campaign counts more than 50 tribes that oppose it.”

The tribes aren’t clean here either. The above “No on 27” ad decries that the measure would turn “every cell phone, laptop, tablet and even video game console into a gambling device, opening up online gambling to anyone, anywhere, anytime.” Umm, that is how internet websites work.

The part they leave out is that those same tribes are working on a 2024 ballot measure that would do the exact same, just with the revenue flowing primarily to them, rather than DraftKings and FanDuel.

If Props 26 and 27 both fail, nothing  changes, and we probably vote on a different proposed sports gambling model in 2024. If both measures pass, both sides are likely to sue each other.  

“The proposition with the most votes could argue the other proposition conflicts with theirs,” according to KGO. “They could take legal action to prevent it from becoming law.” So then it would be up to the courts to decide where the chips fall.

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Image: Joe Kukura, SFist