2022 results: California voters reject sports betting, tax on rich; right to abortion affirmed

A roll of "I Voted" stickers await voters at the polling place at the Rancho Mirage Public Library on Nov. 7, 2022.

California voters have rejected ballot initiatives that would have allowed sports gambling in the Golden State, changed rules for staffing at kidney dialysis centers and taxed the wealthy to support climate change programs.

But they approved propositions that increased funding for arts in public schools, enshrined abortion rights in the state constitution and upheld a ban on flavored tobacco products.

California election updates: Prop. 1 passes, sports betting fails, incumbents win

Gambling measures go down to defeat

Taken together, the two gaming propositions — Propositions 26 and 27 — were the most expensive ballot initiative campaign in U.S. history. The gaming industry and Native American tribes raised nearly $600 million to capture a piece of a potential billion-dollar market in the nation’s most populous state.

Proposition 26 would have allowed tribal casinos and the state's four major horse tracks to offer sports betting in person. The initiative bankrolled by a coalition of tribes would also have allowed roulette and dice games at casinos. A 10% tax would have helped pay for enforcement of gambling laws and programs to help gambling addicts.

With more than 4.6 million votes counted, the measure that would have legalized sports gambling at tribal casinos and horse tracks had less than 30% support.

Proposition 27, a measure largely supported by gaming companies that would have allowed adults to wager on mobile devices and online, had about 17% support.

Californians were inundated with a blast of advertisements — much of it from backers of the two measures attacking the competing one.

The money raised and spent more than doubled the record amount spent in 2020 by Uber, Lyft and other app-based ride-hailing and delivery services to prevent drivers from becoming employees eligible for benefits and job protection.

More than 30 other states allow sports betting, but gambling in California is currently limited to Native American casinos, horse tracks, card rooms and the state lottery.

Proponents of the two initiatives proposed different ways to offer sports gambling and each touted other benefits they said would come to the state if their measure was approved.

Proposition 26 would have allowed casinos and the state's four horse tracks to offer sports betting in person. The initiative bankrolled by a coalition of tribes would also allow roulette and dice games at casinos.

Proposition 27 would have allowed online and mobile sports betting for adults. Large gaming companies would have had to partner with a tribe involved in gambling or tribes could enter the market on their own. That measure was backed by DraftKings, BetMGM, FanDuel as well as other national sports betting operators and a few tribes.

The initiative was being promoted for the funding it promised to funnel through tax revenues to help the homeless, the mentally ill and and poorer tribes that haven't been enriched by casinos.

Gov. Gavin Newsom didn't take a position on either proposal but said Proposition 27 was “not a homeless initiative.” The California Republican Party opposed both proposals. State Democrats opposed Proposition 27, but were neutral on Proposition 26. Major League Baseball backed Proposition 27.

The No on Prop. 26 campaign, funded largely by card rooms that stood to lose out, said the measure would give a handful of wealthy and powerful tribes “a virtual monopoly on all gaming in California.”

The No on 27 committee said the proposal was based on deceptive promises and said the gaming companies behind it “didn't write it for the homeless, they wrote it for themselves.”

New tax on rich rejected

California voters also rejected a new tax on the state’s richest residents. Proposition 30 would have boosted the tax rate on incomes above $2 million to help put more electric cars on the road. On Wednesday, the measure had only 41% in support.

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Backers of the measure said California badly needs a reliable source of money to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. The measure’s defeat marks a win for Gov. Gavin Newsom, who campaigned against it despite his support for electric cars. He called it a corporate giveaway for ridesharing companies like Lyft, which paid for the “yes” campaign.

Dialysis center measure defeated — again

For the third time in three straight elections, California voters rejected a ballot measure that would have mandated major changes to the operations of dialysis clinics that provide life-saving care to 80,000 people with kidney failure.

Proposition 29 failed after nearly 70% of Californians voted “no” in returns on Wednesday.

The measure would have required a doctor, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant to be present during treatment at the state’s 600 outpatient dialysis facilities.

Dialysis clinic companies said that under the mandate, between two and three doctors would be required at every facility because most are open at least 16 hours a day. That would have created a financial burden that could lead some clinics to close, making it harder for patients to find treatment, they said.

“Voters made the compassionate choice and voted to protect patients," said Oakland nephrologist Bryan Wong with the No on 29 campaign.

Prop. 29 supporters insisted that dialysis patients need more thorough care during their regular visits.

Voters enshrine the right to abortion in the state constitution

Golden State voters did resoundingly approve — with 65% voting yes — a ballot measure to enshrine the right to abortion and contraception in the state constitution.

Other states were also considering measures to regulate reproductive health after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June and ruled that states could decide whether to allow abortion.

The measure had been expected to pass in heavily Democratic California, with polling showing at least two-thirds of those surveyed in support. But supporters wanted a decisive win, to send a clear message that abortion is legal and accessible in California and to encourage other states to do the same.

“This overwhelming victory once again shows California’s leadership in moments of national crisis and that our values will not be compromised by a handful of conservative extremists on the U.S. Supreme Court,” Jodi Hicks, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said in a statement.

More: Abortion rights were on the ballot in these 5 states. Here's what voters decided.

Newsom, who easily coasted to re-election, made campaign ads to back the measure and appeared at Tuesday's celebration with proposition supporters. He said he was proud that voters enshrined the right of women and girls to reproductive care.

Opponents said in a statement that they were “incredibly disappointed" by the vote and would fight any attempts to expand abortion beyond limits currently set by state law.

The amendment in California declares that the state “shall not deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions, which includes their fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives.”

The California Republican Party and other opponents repeatedly said the measure contains no gestational or viability limits on abortion, meaning a fetus could be aborted late in pregnancy even though it’s capable of surviving outside the womb.

In response, the measure’s supporters said that a constitutional amendment enshrining abortion would have no bearing on limits placed on abortions by lawmakers.

California law currently permits abortion only before a fetus is viable, which is usually defined as around 24 weeks of pregnancy. Abortions in the third trimester are rare, and in California, permitted only if the mother’s life or heath is at risk.

Democrats in control of the governor’s office and Legislature hurried to put the constitutional amendment before voters, and passed other legislation to protect people seeking abortion and those providing them. Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited San Francisco to highlight the proposition.

Voters approve law banning flavored tobacco

Californians also voted to allow a law banning flavored tobacco products such as menthol cigarettes and strawberry gummy vaping juice to go into effect.

Proposition 31 won handily with 62% of the vote on Wednesday.

A campaign funded by tobacco giants, including R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris USA, had effectively blocked the law passed two years ago. The $20 million campaign gathered enough signatures to put the issue on the statewide ballot.

Supporters of the ban, who included doctors, child welfare advocates and the state’s dominant Democratic Party, said the law was necessary to put a stop to the staggering rise in teen smoking.

Supporters of the ban said the victory will save lives and money on tobacco-related health care costs.

“Voters have overwhelmingly decided to protect kids from being lured into a lifetime of addiction to nicotine,” Lindsey Freitas of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said in a statement. “And it sets a powerful example for other states and cities, as well as the FDA, which has proposed nationwide regulations prohibiting menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.”

Tobacco companies had pushed hard to keep from being shut out of a large portion of California’s vast market. California’s Republican party also opposed the ban, saying it would cause a giant loss in tax revenue.

California becomes the second state in the nation, after Massachusetts, to enact a ban prohibiting the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. A number of California cities, including Los Angeles and San Diego, already enacted their own bans.

It’s already illegal for retailers to sell tobacco to anyone under 21. But advocates of the ban said flavored cigarettes and vaping cartridges were still too easy for teens to obtain. The ban doesn't make it a crime to possess such products but retailers who sold them to kids could be fined up to $250.

The ban, which passed the Legislature with bipartisan support, also prohibits the sale of pods for vape pens, tank-based systems and chewing tobacco, with exceptions made for hookahs, some cigars and loose-leaf tobacco.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: California voters enshrine right to abortion, reject sports betting