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The Del Mar Fairgrounds will halt plans to build a new sportsbook after California voters struck down Proposition 26, which would have permitted sports betting at race tracks and tribal casinos. Photo by Laura Place
The Del Mar Fairgrounds will halt plans to build a new sportsbook after California voters struck down Proposition 26, which would have permitted sports betting at race tracks and tribal casinos. Photo by Laura Place
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Del Mar Fairgrounds halts sportsbook plans after Prop 26 failure

DEL MAR — The Del Mar Fairgrounds has halted plans to launch a potentially lucrative new sportsbook after the failure of a state proposition that would have legalized in-person sports betting at private horse race tracks and tribal casinos.

The 22nd District Agricultural Association, the board managing the fairgrounds, voted in the fall of 2021 to make sports betting a permitted activity at its off-track wagering center pending the passage of Proposition 26.

Ultimately, the proposition was one of two sports betting measures soundly defeated in this election, being rejected by over two-thirds of California voters. Proposition 27, which sought to legalize online sports betting statewide, faced an even more decisive loss with 80% of constituents voting “no.”

Following the election, Fairgrounds CEO Carlene Moore said the Fairgrounds would shelve all efforts for the new sportsbook at this time. This includes finding an operator to manage the planned first-class sportsbook, where sports wagering could have taken place simultaneously with horse race betting at the racetrack.

However, she said the Fairgrounds is open to the possibility of trying again if another sports wagering measure comes before voters in the future.

“If California voters are supportive of sports wagering in the future, the 22nd DAA remains interested in the opportunity to further its mission to connect our community through shared interests, diverse experiences, and service to one another in an inclusive, accessible, and safe place with an emphasis on agriculture, education, recreation, and entertainment,” Moore said.

Even more than race tracks, propositions 26 and 27 spelled out major impacts for tribal casinos. The majority of California’s tribes supported Proposition 26 and opposed 27, warning that the expansion of online sports betting would impact the sovereignty of tribes which depend on income from casinos.

Advertising for both measures focused heavily on tribal support, and often failed to mention sports betting — and in the case of Proposition 26, race tracks — at all. Campaign spending on the two sports betting measures was among the most expensive in the state’s history, with over $300 million spent on advertising by supporters and opponents of both propositions.

Over 30 states have legalized sports betting in some form, but for now, that possibility remains out of reach for California at least until the next election cycle.

“It’s clear voters don’t want a massive expansion of online sports betting, and they trust Indian tribes when it comes to responsible gaming,” said Mark Macarro, Tribal Chairman of the Pechanga Band of Indians in San Diego County. “As tribes, we will analyze these results, and collectively have discussions about what the future of sports wagering might look like in California.”