Gambling Expert: CA May Not Legalize Sports Betting for ‘5-10 Years’

Paul Martino is a Philly guy — Doylestown, actually. But he has a sense for the mood in California after spending 13 years in Silicon Valley as a tech and gambling entrepreneur.

The managing partner of Bullpen Capital and early FanDuel investor doesn’t have to make any bold predictions about the dire forecasts for Prop 26 and Prop 27 in California. Most polls are doing a thorough job of that.

Martino thinks the situation is even worse.

He doesn’t foresee sports betting being legalized in the most populous of the US for years. Years and years.

That’s a sobering prospect for national sport betting companies like FanDuel, whose CEO, Amy Howe, vowed to “live to fight another day” in the California sports betting battle at the Global Gaming Conference, or G2E, recently.

“I’m actually very, very bearish on California,” Martino said in an interview with California Casinos. “I felt all along that if this initiative got the kind of backlash that we anticipated … no one would’ve thought they would’ve spent $400 million on this initiative.

“But my view was that if this went down this year in 2022, it would be 5-10 years until we get another bite of this apple.”

Martino’s venture capital excursion began in Northern California and included brushes with Mark Zuckerberg when he was still a Harvard student conceptualizing Facebook.

“I know that I’m probably more bearish than most people on California,” Martino said. “But look, I lived in San Francisco for 13 years. I did follow politics there when I was there. I just think that this will close the door probably to the end of this decade.”

California Sports Betting Backers Can’t Just Reboot Prop 26 and Prop 27

Although national sportsbook operators, who would benefit from the state-wide mobile Prop 27, have vowed to fight whenever another day arrives, there would be concrete and esoteric barriers.

After an oppressive media blitz, many Californians are weary of the campaign, said Bill Pascrell III, a lobbyist with PPAG — Princeton Public Affairs Group. The process of trying to legalize sports betting in California may have poisoned the ground rather than seeding it. Unless one of these measures passes, that is.

Along the way, the might of powerful California tribal gaming interest has been underscored, even though Prop 26 would allow retail wagering in tribal casinos and the state’s four horse racetracks.

Tribal entities basically responded to Howe’s assertion with scorn.

“This has been contentious with the tribes since the daily fantasy days,” Martino said. “So once sports betting (legalization attempts) happen, you knew the volume was going to from four to 10, and now it’s like a 13.”

IF PROP 27 PASSES … Potential California Online Sportsbook Promos

Additionally, California sports betting proponents can’t simply file the same propositions in 2023 “unless you have a total re-transformation under the constitutional ballot initiatives,” Pascrell III said. Basically, it needs new language, new direction.

“The more of a blowout it is, the more difficult it is,” Pascrell III said of resurrecting a sports betting push in California if Prop 26 and Prop 27 fail. “But I believe this is going to be an opportunity. And I am trying to advocate to seize the opportunity for all of us to come to the table, check the egos at the door, go in and try to negotiate a reasonable settlement that respects tribal interests and concerns, while also trying to move forward the industry’s commercial objectives.

“I think that’s achievable, but I don’t think it’s easily achievable. And the more the losing margin, the wider, the bigger the losing margin is, the more challenging that will be.”

READ MORE: Boyd Gaming Will Finalize Pala Interactive Acquisition in the Coming Weeks. What Does That Mean?

About the Author
Gambling Expert: CA May Not Legalize Sports Betting for ‘5-10 Years’ 1

Brant James

Brant James is a Senior Contributor with California Casinos, canvassing events and trends in the gambling industry. He has covered the American sports betting industry in the United States since before professional sports teams even knew what an official gaming partnership entailed. Before focusing on the gambling industry, James was a nationally acclaimed motorsports writer and a long-time member of the National Hockey League media corps, formerly writing for USA Today, ESPN, and the Tampa Bay Times.