After $440 million, both sports betting ballot measures are underwater
After all the money raised by the four campaigns on both sides of Propositions 26 and 27 — nearly $441 million so far, nearly double the previous record of $226 million set in 2020 — both measures are significantly underwater with voters, according to a new a poll from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times.
- Prop. 26, which would allow Native American casinos and California’s four horse race tracks to offer in-person sports betting and permit tribal casinos to begin offering roulette and dice games, was supported by just 31% of likely voters, compared to 42% opposed and 27% undecided, according to the poll. Prop. 26 is backed by a large coalition of Native American tribes.
- Prop. 27, which would allow licensed tribes and large gaming companies to offer online and mobile sports betting outside tribal lands, was supported by just 27% of likely voters, with 53% opposed and 20% undecided. Prop. 27 is backed by online gaming companies, including DraftKings and FanDuel, and three Native American tribes.
The campaigns don’t have much time to change Californians’ minds: County elections offices are required to begin mailing ballots to all active, registered voters no later than Monday, and Election Day is just five weeks away.
The poll also found that the campaigns’ oodles of cash may actually be a liability: Voters who reported having seen lots of ads about Props. 26 and 27 were more likely by “wide margins” to oppose both measures than voters who had seen few or no ads.
It probably doesn’t help that many of the ads are confusing and possibly even misleading, and that they’re funded by four different ballot measure campaigns composed of a complex cast of players.
- One campaign, backed principally by Native American tribes, is focused solely on opposing Prop. 27.
- Another campaign, also funded principally by tribes, is focused both on supporting Prop. 26 and opposing Prop. 27.
- A third campaign, primarily funded by online gaming companies, is focused on supporting Prop. 27.
- And the fourth, funded principally by card rooms — a main competitor of tribal casinos — is focused on defeating Prop. 26.
Kathy Fairbanks, a spokesperson for the Yes on 26/No on 27 campaign, told the Los Angeles Times that her side is grateful “that voters appear to be rejecting the out-of-state gambling corporations and their $170-million campaign of deception.”
Nathan Click, a spokesperson for the Yes on 27 campaign, told the Times that Prop. 27 has faced “over $100 million in misleading and false attacks — $45 million before we even qualified for the ballot. It’s telling these same opponents haven’t spent a dime supporting their own sports betting proposal,” Prop. 26.
Props. 26 and 27 have also struck out with the editorial boards of major California newspapers, none of which have endorsed either measure, according to a list maintained by the Sacramento-based I Street Public Affairs.
Other key takeaways from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll:
- 57% of likely voters support Prop. 31, which would uphold a 2020 law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom banning the sale of certain flavored tobacco products, while 31% oppose it and want the law to be overturned. Another 12% are undecided.
- 49% of likely voters support Prop. 30, which would levy a new tax on millionaires to fund electric car programs and other climate initiatives, while 37% oppose it and 14% are undecided.
- In the gubernatorial race, 53% of likely voters plan to vote for Newsom, the Democratic incumbent, while 32% say they’ll support his challenger, Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle of Bieber. Support for Newsom has remained more or less steady since Berkeley’s August survey, while support for Dahle ticked up 7 percentage points — though not nearly enough to make a dent in the uphill battle Republicans face in deep-blue California.
Get ready to vote: Find out everything you need to know about voting in California’s Nov. 8 election in the CalMatters Voter Guide, which includes information on races, candidates and propositions, as well as videos, interactives and campaign finance data.
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1 Taking stock of Prop. 30 spending
From CalMatters political reporter Ben Christopher: As California campaigns rush to raise cash in the five weeks left until the Nov. 8 election, the committee opposed to Prop. 30 — which would raise taxes on millionaires to fund electric vehicle programs and other climate initiatives — has turned to a novel funding source: stocks.
According to campaign finance numbers filed with the state at the end of September, “No on 30” has taken in a little more than $2.3 million worth of corporate equities this year.
As financial portfolios go, it’s heavy on tech, pharmaceuticals and, yes, even fossil fuel investments. Some of its bigger holdings include:
- 3,920 shares of Take-Two Interactive, the videotape company that owns Rockstar Games. Total value when donated: $490,314.
- 2,848 shares of NVIDIA Corp., a high-performance chip manufacturer. Total value: $463,085.
- 1,623 shares of Exxon, 1,510 in liquified natural gas developer New Fortress Energy and 260 in Australian oil driller Woodside Energy. Total value: $328,792.
The committee’s small mountain of stock is still just a fraction of the $9.1 million it’s raised in cash so far. And it’s just a drop in a sea of corporate donations compared to the $47 million vacuumed up by Yes on 30 — more than $45 million coming from the ride-share giant Lyft, which also spent $49 million in support of a successful 2020 ballot measure (the initiative that set the previous spending record) to exempt itself from a state labor law.
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Giving stocks seems to be a uniquely Silicon Valley way to influence elections. Roughly a quarter of the funds raised by the successful campaign to recall San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin came in the form of company shares, the San Francisco Standard reported.
- One possible reason for the trend: Neither donors nor ballot measure committees have to pay capital gains on donated stocks.
For donors with stocks that have boomed in value since they first purchased them — the hallmark of a successful venture capitalist’s portfolio — that makes for a particularly enticing tax break.
CalMatters reviewed every non-cash contribution reported to statewide ballot measure committees over the last two years. “No on 30” is the only one that received stock. San Francisco election lawyer Jim Sutton said he isn’t surprised.
- Sutton: “This is a ballot measure that specifically targets rich people, and rich people are more likely to have appreciated stock.”
For supporters of Prop. 30, who have spent weeks denouncing the “No” side as a campaign funded by self-interested millionaires looking to avoid higher tax bills, the stock contributions provided yet more ammunition.
- Steven Maviglio, a consultant for the Yes on 30 campaign: “Billionaires finding a way to avoid taxes with a donation — while contributing to a measure that would make them pay higher taxes.”
No on 30 spokesperson Amelia Matier said the stock contributions were of little importance compared to the millions of dollars Lyft has spent in support of the proposition. She said the rideshare company has spent “50x that of any other donor on any other side.”
- Matier: “The real question is — do Californians want corporations to campaign-spend their way around our laws and to line their pockets.”
2 Health care union takes wage disputes to the ballot
Why are Californians voting — for the third time — on whether to establish new rules for dialysis clinics? Behind Prop. 29 is California’s largest health care workers union, Service Employees International Union-United Health Workers West, which is known to routinely turn to voters and use the initiative process as a negotiating tactic — including at the local level. On Nov. 8, voters in the Southern California cities of Duarte and Inglewood will determine the fate of SEIU-UHW initiatives to set a minimum wage requirement of $25 per hour for some of the lowest-paid workers at private hospitals, integrated health systems and dialysis clinics, CalMatters’ Ana B. Ibarra reports. The union — which earlier this year tried to hash out a last-minute legislative deal to boost the statewide minimum wage for health care workers in both public and private facilities — is betting that local wins could help spur a larger movement. Meanwhile, California’s hospital lobby and health systems across the state have poured at least $17 million into defeating the Duarte and Inglewood measures.
- Renée Saldaña, a spokesperson for SEIU-UHW: “We want to win a minimum wage across the state (so) we’re starting off by targeting where we’re hearing the most support and the most need.”
- George Greene, president of the Hospital Association of Southern California: “Absolutely, the hospital industry believes that our workforce should receive fair pay. We believe that this should be a statewide conversation so that all health care providers can be taken into consideration and we can have a measured approach as to how we determine what those rates of pay should be.”
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