During a budget hearing on Friday, state senators again raised concerns over long-term funding for fairs. The venues are down an estimated $98 million from lost business due to the pandemic. In response, the budget will likely include about $40 million to cover basic liabilities for layoffs at state-affiliated fairs.
“The plan, as I understand it, is that all the managers are immediately fired from all the 77 fairs, and, over the next six months, we're going to get rid of all the employees,” said Sen. Bob Wieckowski of Fremont.
He asked how the Newsom administration plans to activate fairs for emergencies. According to Vivek Viswanathan, budget director for the Department of Finance, the governor's cabinet and lawmakers are still in discussions over what the state’s relationship to fairs will look like post-pandemic. Under the direction of CDFA, the state has increasingly relied on fairgrounds in responding to crises ranging from homelessness to COVID-19 testing, earthquakes and wildfire evacuations.
Wieckowski then pointed out that the two branches of government are also discussing separate legislation to allow legal wagers on sports games, as several other states have already done. The senator, however, said that “the administration or the authors specifically are not allowing fairs to take bets on sports games, which might help them.”
Over the last decade, fairs have continuously shifted to new and creative ways to draw revenue. The horse racing industry used to play a role as well.