Fresno mayor says legalizing online sports betting may help solve homeless crisis

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Online sports betting may soon be legal in the state of California.

A new initiative supported by several mayors across the state, including Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer, aims to legalize and then tax the gambling.

Tax revenue would then be used to help house the homeless.

Mayor Jerry Dyer said for the past year, the city has focused on housing people experiencing homelessness.

Dyer said they've been able to do that thanks to a surplus of money from the state, but he's looking for more sustainable funding and thinks online sports betting may be the solution.

That's why he's joining the mayors of Sacramento, Oakland and Long Beach to support an initiative that would make online sports betting legal in California.

"We know this is occurring underground and it is time for us in local government to be able to take advantage of those revenues," Dyer said.

The initiative, which would go before voters, would allow state-regulated entities to offer online sports betting.

Fifteen percent of the tax revenue from the sports betting would go to the Tribal Economic Development Account while the other 85% would go to a new, dedicated fund for homelessness and mental health services across the state of California.

"These dollars are sorely needed so that we can address all the issues that impact homelessness," Dyer said.

The money would then be split between each jurisdiction in the state based on its need.

The measure states no more than 40% of the funds in the account can be used for interim housing.

Dyer didn't say how much money the initiative could bring in, but called it "substantial."

"This revenue source, from legalized sports betting, will be a guaranteed funding source for years to come which allows us to address our homeless issues," Dyer said.

Backers of this proposal say it compliments another measure already headed to voters in 2022 that would allow for in-person sports betting at tribal casinos and racetracks.

This proposal for online sportsbooks will require nearly 1 million signatures in order to appear on the 2022 ballot.

If approved by voters, it would go into effect as early as 2023.
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