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All Bets Are On in California? The Golden State’s Bid to Legalize Sports Gambling

If you’re gearing up for your fantasy football draft, you might be interested to know that the California Legislature is considering a proposal to legalize sports gambling. Assembly Constitutional Amendment No. 18 is a resolution to amend the California Constitution (particularly, Section 19 of Article IV) to authorize the legislature to allow gambling on sports “only if a change in federal law occurs to authorize sports wagering in this state.”

Currently, federal law—in particular, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA)—prohibits a governmental entity from conducting “betting, gambling, or wagering” based “on competitive games or performances in which amateur or professional athletes participate.” The Supreme Court of the United States will enter the fray next term when it will decide a case involving a New Jersey law that repeals certain prohibitions on sports gambling, which the Third Circuit ruled violates PASPA.

California Assemblyman Adam C. Gray (D-Merced), who has been a proponent of legalizing online poker and fantasy sports, introduced the proposal on July 20. “We need to crack down on illegal and unregulated online gaming and replace it with a safe and responsible option which includes safeguards against compulsive and underage gambling, money laundering and fraud,” Gray said in a statement. “All other gaming activities in California are subject to regulations that ensure the safety of consumers. Sports wagering should be treated no differently.”

What Does This Mean for Gambling in the Workplace?

As we have noted in the past, in addition to PASPA, which prohibits gambling on sports in most states, the Interstate Wire Act of 1961 has been interpreted to prohibit online betting and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) opposes even the “harmless small-dollar bracket office pool.” Nevertheless, it’s expected that millions of workers will participate in fantasy football and March Madness office pools every year. While the laws prohibiting these activities are rarely enforced, employers may want to avoid being seen as sanctioning gambling pools. Constitutional Amendment No. 18 would change your current game plans only if the federal laws on gambling also change. Only time will tell whether the Supreme Court’s decision next term will be a game changer for gambling enthusiasts.

© 2017, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., All Rights Reserved.

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Dawn Knepper is licensed in both California and Texas and she is Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  She represents employers in all aspects of employment law, including employment litigation and counseling.

Dawn advises and defends clients in federal and state employment-related lawsuits and agency claims, including actions alleging discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and wrongful termination.  Dawn’s experience includes successfully defending employers in both jury and bench trials and...

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Managing Editor of Firm Publications

Hera S. Arsen, J.D., Ph.D., is Managing Editor of the firm's publications, overseeing the firm's print and online legal publications and content. Hera, who joined Ogletree Deakins in 2003, is directly responsible for writing and editing the firm's national legal content, including coverage of federal agencies and the Supreme Court of the United States. She also oversees the Ogletree Deakins blog, which covers the latest legal news from over 20 practice-areas and jurisdictions. As leader of the firm's blog, Hera writes blog posts on a variety of legal issues, edits attorney-authored blog posts, and strategizes on the development of timely content. Her articles have been featured in a number of publications and media outlets.

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