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Bet on it: Sports gambling effort in California is not over

Source image: https://apnews.com/article/2022-midterm-elections-technology-sports-business-california-7552c76ea151ba145e8c85ee7b277838

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The effort to legalize sports betting in California ran headlong into a typical challenge for competing ballot measures as each was battered in a torrent of negative advertising that doomed both to spectacular failure in the most expensive ballot race in U.S. history.

Anytime voters face two measures at odds with each other, they tend to reject both, said professor David McCuan, chairman of the political science department at Sonoma State University.

“Whenever we have dueling ballot measures, and the competitors have an arsenal of dollars … the competitors will go nuclear. And in a nuclear war everybody loses,” McCuan said. “The most powerful money in California politics is on the ‘No’ side of ballot measures.”

The result was a pasting at the polls for both.

With 5.3 million votes counted Wednesday, more than 80% of voters rejected an effort by the gaming industry that would have allowed online and phone wagers on sports. A measure supported by Native American tribes that would have let gamblers place sports bets at tribal casinos and four horse tracks was opposed by 70% of voters.

But the result of Tuesday’s election is not a doomsday scenario for sports betting in California. With what could be a billion dollar market in the nation’s most populous state, there’s simply too much at stake for supporters to give up.

More than 30 other states now allow sports betting, but Californians are limited to playing slot machines, poker and other games at Native American casinos, and wagering at horse tracks, card rooms and the state lottery.

Supporters of both measures wouldn’t discuss specifics but said they were reevaluating how to move forward to bring sports gambling to the Golden State.

Jacob Mejia, vice president of public affairs for Pechanga, which has one of the biggest casinos, said it’s too soon to say whether tribal gaming interests would try to work with the Legislature or go directly to the voters again.

“First, we all need to respect the will of the voters and the message they sent last night,” Mejia said.

The campaign in support of online wagering issued a statement saying it remained committed to expanding sports betting in California.

“This campaign has underscored our resolve to see California follow more than half the country in legalizing safe and responsible online sports betting,” the Yes on 27 campaign said. “Californians deserve the benefits of a safe, responsible, regulated, and taxed online sports betting market, and we are resolved to bringing it to fruition here.”

Returning to the Legislature for a solution would require powerful tribes to sit down with their smaller peers, off-track betting operations, as well as foes who operate card rooms and those who want to expand betting to mobile devices, McCuan said.

“The tribes have so much money and so many resources that they believe they could take their toys and go home,” McCuan said. “That has presented some problems to find a legislative solution.”

The origin of what became such a negative campaign with voters inundated with television ads during sporting events, on social media and in campaign mailers, began after several legislative efforts to allow sports betting failed in Sacramento.

California tribes planned to launch a ballot campaign in 2020 but had to shelve that plan when the pandemic prevented collecting signatures needed to get it on the ballot.

Their measure — Proposition 26 — qualified for the ballot this year, but they quickly shifted priorities to defeat Proposition 27 — the competing measure put forward by online gambling proponents.

“Tribes viewed this as the biggest threat to their self sufficiency in a generation,” Mejia said. “These out of state operators tried to masquerade Prop. 27 as a tribally supported solution for homelessness, when in fact, it was neither.”

Attack ads said Proposition 27 would turn every cell phone, laptop and tablet into a gambling device. They said it couldn’t be adequately monitored to keep children from betting and raised fears of creating a generation of gambling addicts.

Opponents of Proposition 26, led primarily by card rooms that stood to lose out on any kind of sports betting, said the measure would increase the power of wealthy tribes and grant them a virtual monopoly on gambling in the state. The measure would also have allowed casinos to offer roulette and craps.

Both measures promised to bring benefits to the state through tax revenues. Proposition 27 supporters touted funds that would go to help the homeless, the mentally ill and and poorer tribes left out of the casino bonanza. Proposition 26 backers said a 10% tax would fund enforcement of gambling laws and support programs to help gambling addicts.

Of the roughly $460 million raised for and against both measures, about $170 million was in support of the online sports gambling initiative backed by DraftKings, BetMGM, FanDuel — the latter is the official odds provider for The Associated Press — as well as other national sports betting operators and a few tribes.

A coalition of tribes behind the No on 27 committee raised $116 million toward its defeat. Of the $128 million raised by the Yes on 26, No on 27 committee of tribal groups, Mejia said its spending was primarily to defeat the online measure and the group didn’t run a single TV ad in support of its own initiative.

Two groups funded mostly by card rooms raised $44 million to attack Proposition 26.

The massive fundraising more than doubled the previous record in 2020 that helped Uber, Lyft and other app-based ride and delivery services to prevent drivers from becoming employees eligible for benefits and job protection.

With a blowout on political advertising, voters often end up being turned off, McCuan said.

“What California voters object to is the vulgarity of having campaign ads thrown in their face at every turn,” he said. “It has that backlash effect.”

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Follow AP’s coverage of the elections at: https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections

Check out https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections to learn more about the issues and factors at play in the 2022 midterm elections.

Source: https://apnews.com/article/2022-midterm-elections-technology-sports-business-california-7552c76ea151ba145e8c85ee7b277838

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LeBron’s off-court legacy complements his basketball success

Mya Smiley is a student at the University of Akron thanks to an assist from LeBron James, and she is determined upon graduation to become a social worker that helps foster kids.

Her education and career path would not have been possible, the sophomore says, were it not for a scholarship and counseling that she received from the LeBron James Family Foundation. “He’s life-changing,” Smiley said.

For all his accomplishments on the basketball court — four championships, 19 All-Star Game nominations and an imminent coronation as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer — it is James’ ambitious pursuits off-the-court that may ultimately distinguish his legacy from other superstar athletes’.

James co-founded a successful media and entertainment company, bought stakes in storied professional baseball and soccer franchises and, with a big assist from product endorsements, his net worth is estimated to have grown above $1 billion. The off-court achievement that James is most proud of, he says, is working to uplift the lives of people like Smiley in his hometown of Akron.

Many athletes have excelled in one or more of these areas. But few have done all of them as well as James, who is closing in on passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the NBA’s career scoring record.

“His goal, I believe, is to have 10% of his wealth go to causes and support communities, which is an amazing goal,” said Lisa Delpy Neirotti, a professor of sports management at George Washington University. “I would say he’s maybe above and beyond others, just on that aspiration alone.”

James is, by any measure, an overwhelming success. And he makes Smiley — one of the many people in Akron who have received financial support from his foundation — believe that she can be a success as well.

“If I did not have the LeBron program, I probably wouldn’t have ever gone to college. I would be living in a not-so-positive environment,” said the 19-year-old Smiley.

“His ability to help people’s futures,” she added, “is what makes LeBron a great person.”

James, who entered the NBA straight after high school in 2003, planned early on to use his talents, fame — and, yes, his growing financial resources — to have on impact on the world beyond basketball.

“Even before I got into the NBA, I knew I wanted to find a way to give back to my community,” said James. Although James bounced from home to home during his childhood, and experienced financial insecurity for many of those years, he also was given enormous support from friends, neighbors and educators.

The LeBron James Family Foundation, founded in 2004, at first gained local attention by giving away bikes and backpacks. Then it began looking at after-school programs, with students scattered across several dozen schools, and eventually created a public school currently serving about 575 third through eighth graders. Today the school includes a family resource center that provides a wide-range of services to parents, including mental health, financial literacy, legal aid and GED courses.

Just down the street from the school, the foundation provides rent-free housing to as many as 16 different families — when needed — and it has plans to build 50 units of affordable housing.

“I couldn’t have guessed how much it would grow,” James said in late January. “But we got here by listening and responding to our community and what they need.”

James has made over $400 million in NBA salary during his time with Cleveland, Miami and the Los Angeles Lakers. Another $100 million is on the way in the next 2-1/2 years or so.

James is a pitchman for Nike, GMC, AT&T and many more multinational companies. He owns a piece of the Boston Red Sox and Britain’s Liverpool football club. His entertainment company, SpringHill — named after the modest apartment complex he grew up in — is valued at $725 million and has produced movies for HBO and Netflix.

“He’s been a brilliant example for millions of kids, especially kids with lesser opportunity and haven’t had the same advantages as others,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said in 2018, a sentiment he’s repeated many times since. “They see in this guy somebody who has consistently exhibited excellence in the workplace and gives them a voice and lets them know that you can speak about anything.”

James puts so much focus on giving back to Akron because of the help people there gave to him and his family. “He’s never lost sight of that,” said Michele Campbell, the executive director of James’ foundation. “I think that keeps him grounded.”

Just how down to earth “King James” really was got called into question in 2010. That’s when he went on television to announce that he was leaving Cleveland to play in Miami. Billed as “The Decision” — and broadcast on ESPN — the live event was widely ripped as egotistical. But from James’ perspective, the broadcast raised around $4 million for charity, a fact was largely overlooked.

Just a couple of years later, James would use his star power to help draw attention to a cause bigger than himself.

In the aftermath of the 2012 death of Trayvon Martin — a Black Florida teen who was wearing a hoodie when he was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer — James tweeted a photo of Heat players wearing hoodies and bowing their heads that included the hashtag “WeWantJustice.”

In 2020, James helped lead the “More Than A Vote” movement, which included registration and early-vote drives and stressed the need for people — particularly Black voters — to get to the polls to fight disenfranchisement.

Also in 2020, in the aftermath of the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, James was one of the players calling for an end to racial inequality and police brutality.

“Everything I do,” James said late last year, “has to have a purpose.”

James has all the money and all the fame that he ever wanted or needed. His NBA records, including the scoring title, are going to last for a very long time.

As will his off-court endeavors.

“His ability to help others and put others first is what makes him a great person,” Smiley said. “Not the baskets he shot.”

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Kyrgios pleads guilty to assault, has no conviction recorded

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Nick Kyrgios had suffered severe depression, suicidal ideation and insomnia in the past, a psychologist told a court on Friday when the Australian tennis star pleaded guilty to pushing a former girlfriend to the ground two years ago.

The 2022 Wimbledon runner-up pleaded guilty in the Australian Capital Territory Magistrates Court to assaulting Chiara Passari during an argument in his hometown of Canberra in January 2021.

Magistrate Jane Campbell didn’t record a conviction against Kyrgios for reasons including that the offense was at the low end of seriousness for a common assault, and was not premeditated.

Campbell described it as an act of “stupidity” and “frustration.”

Kyrgios, who was using crutches following recent surgery on his left knee, didn’t speak to reporters as he left court but issued a statement through a management company.

“I respect today’s ruling and am grateful to the court for dismissing the charges without conviction,” Kyrgios said. “I was not in a good place when this took place and I reacted to a difficult situation in a way I deeply regret. I know it wasn’t OK and I’m sincerely sorry for the hurt I caused.

“Mental health is tough. Life can seem overwhelming. But I’ve found that getting help and working on myself has helped me to feel better and to be better.”

Kyrgios’ psychologist, Sam Borenstein, said in a written report and testimony by phone that Kyrgios had suffered major depressive episodes in the past and had used alcohol and drugs to cope. Kyrgios’ mental health led to impulsive and reckless behavior.

His recent knee injury had resulted in mild to moderate symptoms of depression, but his mental health was improving, Borenstein said.

“He’s doing very well,” Borenstein said. “His mental health has improved significantly.”

Lawyers for Kyrgios had sought to have an assault charge stemming from events two years ago dismissed on mental health grounds but the application was unsuccessful.

Kyrgios had been attempting to leave Passari during an argument at 10 p.m. on Jan. 10, 2021, outside her apartment in the inner-Canberra suburb of Kingston. He called an Uber but Passari stood in the way of him closing the front passenger side door. The driver wouldn’t leave with the door open.

Kyrgios eventually pushed Passari’s shoulders backward with open palms, causing her to fall to the pavement and graze her knee, according to agreed facts read to the court.

Passari signed a police statement alleging the assault 11 months later, after her relationship with Kyrgios had ended.

His current partner, Costeen Hatzi, wrote in a character reference that she had no concerns of violence in her relationship. Hatzi was among Kyrgios’ supporters who sat behind him in court.

Kyrgios, wearing a dark suit and using the crutches for support, first spoke in court when the magistrate asked him if he could stand to enter a plea.

Kyrgios replied: “Yep, no worries, Your Honor,” as he rose to plead guilty.

In February last year, Kyrgios opened up about his performance at the 2019 Australian Open, saying what appeared to be a positive time in his life had been “one of my darkest periods.”

“I was lonely, depressed, negative, abusing alcohol, drugs, pushed away family and friends,” he wrote on Instagram. “I felt as if I couldn’t talk or trust anyone. This was a result of not opening up and refusing to lean on my loved ones and simply just push myself little by little to be positive.”

Kyrgios made further references to his mental health struggles during his runs last year to the final at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open.

After ending Daniil Medvedev’s U.S. Open title defense last September to reach the quarterfinals, Kyrgios expressed pride at lifting himself out of “some really tough situations, mentally” and “some really scary places” off the court.

The 27-year-old Kyrgios had a career setback last month when he withdrew from the Australian Open because the knee injury which later required arthroscopic surgery.

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AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Bengals’ Joe Mixon charged with pointing gun at woman

CINCINNATI (AP) — Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon has been charged in a warrant with pointing a gun at a woman and threatening her, according to court documents.

Mixon faces a misdemeanor charge of aggravated menacing, according to the documents, which were filed Thursday in Hamilton County Municipal Court and obtained by The Associated Press. No attorney is listed for him in court records.

According to the warrant, Mixon pointed the gun at the woman and told her, “You should be popped in the face. I should shoot you, the police (can’t) get me.”

The incident occurred on Jan. 21, the day before the Bengals beat the Buffalo Bills in a divisional-round playoff game.

The 26-year-old Mixon rushed for 814 yards and seven touchdowns this season, his sixth. He also had 60 receptions for 441 yards, both career highs, and two touchdowns.

A second-round draft pick out of Oklahoma in 2017, Mixon has spent his entire career with Cincinnati and rushed for career highs of 1,205 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2021.

In 2014, when he was 18, Mixon punched a female Oklahoma student in the face, an attack captured on surveillance video. He was suspended from the football team for a year and entered an Alford plea, in which a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges there is sufficient evidence for a conviction. He received a deferred sentence and was ordered to perform community service and undergo counseling.

The incident hurt his standing in the draft, with several teams saying they passed on him because of concerns about his character.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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