A California advocacy group announced on Monday that it had collected enough signatures that would qualify a measure on the November ballot in which voters would decide whether hundreds of millions of dollars in sports betting tax revenue could be authorized to address homelessness and mental health in the state.
Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support said it collected about 1.6 million signatures for the measure, more than the roughly 1.1 million signatures required to authorize a ballot measure in the general election.
Counties must verify the number of signatures. The California Secretary of State has until June 30 to formally qualify the measure.
The ballot measure would legalize sports betting for those 21 and older and authorize tax revenues for homelessness and mental health services.
“The initiative achieves this by licensing, tightly regulating, and taxing online sports betting conducted in partnership with California’s Tribes – following nearly half the country in creating a safe and responsible online sports betting marketplace,” the group said in a press release.
The Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming, which is made up of several state tribes, businesses and homeless advocacy organizations, have opposed the proposed ballot measure, saying it would increase the risk of problem gambling and underage gambling.
The Coalition also pointed to a April 19 poll that shows 53 percent of Californians oppose the measure compared to 36 percent in favor.
Paul Boden, the executive director of the Western Region Advocacy Project, a California alliance working to end poverty and homelessness, said “it’s simply bad public policy to attempt to fund homelessness and mental health programs with promises of a small piece of the online gambling corporations’ profits.”
Sports betting is legal in 34 states and Washington, D.C., but it is illegal in California, the most populous state in the country that could bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue annually under the measure.
States funnel casino and sports betting tax revenues for public services, and Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support argue California should use the revenue to address a crisis in the state.
California has the most homeless people in the country, with a January 2020 count showing more than 161,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given day, according to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.
The pandemic is said to have worsened the homelessness crisis in the U.S. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) proposed an additional $2 billion to fight homelessness for the state’s fiscal 2022-2023 budget, adding to a $12 billion initiative he created last year.
A David Binder Research poll conducted from March 28 to April 4 showed about 59 percent of Californians support legalizing sports betting to tackle homelessness, compared to 28 percent who oppose it.
City leaders in California have supported the ballot measure, including mayors from Oakland, Fresno and Sacramento.
Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer (R) said the ballot measure would “give cities like Fresno a guaranteed funding source to address homelessness.”
“To truly solve this critical issue and give those most vulnerable among us the housing, mental health and addiction treatment they need, there must be an ongoing revenue stream,” Dyer said in a statement. “This initiative would do just that.”
Updated May 4, 5:31 p.m.