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Legal sports betting pitched as California budget salve

SACRAMENTO - Two state lawmakers on Thursday pitched legalized sports betting as a way to help prop up a state budget devastated by the economic shutdown designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, though their revised proposal immediately reignited a turf battle between powerful gambling interests.

State Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, and Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, are lobbying to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would allow horse racetracks and the Las Vegas-?style casinos run by American Indian tribes to also offer sports wagering, both at their locations and through mobile devices.

The proposal, like others before it, is controversial in part because of competition with gambling interests including card rooms, which offer table games like blackjack and poker.

The legislation would also allow tribal casinos to offer craps and roulette, but the California Nations Indian Gaming Association fears it would aid card rooms by legalizing a practice that the state attorney general last year sought to outlaw.

Card rooms say the attorney general’s regulatory proposal would change the way player-dealer games have operated for decades. The tribal casinos contend that those operations have long been illegal and that writing them into law now would amount to “a massive expansion of games” by their rivals.

It would take a two-thirds legislative vote to put the lawmakers’ measure on the ballot, and a majority of voters would then have to approve.

The state would impose a 10% tax on gross revenue for onsite gambling and a 15% tax on online wagering. The two lawmakers said that could eventually raise $500 million to $700 million.

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