Posted on: February 15, 2022, 11:55h.
Last updated on: February 16, 2022, 12:36h.
California tribal gaming leaders have officially endorsed a second sports betting measure that proponents want to put before voters in the state later this year.
The California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) announced Tuesday that its members backed “The Age-Verified Tribal Online and In-Person Sports Wagering Regulatory Act” at a meeting last Thursday.
The decision, the group said in a statement, does not change its support for the “California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act,” a measure tribal leaders got on the upcoming November ballot after getting more than the 997,139 signatures from registered voters needed to get on the ballot. That initiative would legalize retail sportsbooks at tribal casinos and state-licensed racetracks.
However, after elections officials across the state verified the signatures for the tribal measure, two competing initiatives to allow mobile wagering were announced by commercial operators. One was proposed by supporters of the state’s commercial cardrooms, and the other was put forward by seven of the country’s largest online operators.
That prompted the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, Wilton Rancheria, and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians to offer their own online sports betting measure. State officials released the summary for it on Jan. 11, and supporters have been gathering signatures ever since.
“Although tribes are not in unison on a path toward online sports wagering, there is no question that Indian Country is united in their fierce opposition to any corporate attempt to legalize online gambling,” the CNIGA statement read.
The California Secretary of State recommends that petitions be submitted to election officials for review by April 26.
Tribes Spend Millions to Oppose Other Efforts
CNIGA Chairman James Siva said in the group’s statement that members believe they offer “the most natural fit” to manage sports betting in the nation’s largest state.
After out-of-state commercial operators entered their own ballot initiative, some of our tribes thought a second initiative was needed to counter what we view as an aggressive expansion of commercial gaming into the California gaming market,” Siva explained.
But the tribes aren’t just battling the commercial proposal with one of their own. The San Manuel Band has sponsored “Californians for Tribal Sovereignty and Safe Gaming,” a group that will run an opposition campaign against the sportsbooks’ effort. On Monday, the tribe reported to the Secretary of State that it had contributed more than $25 million to the group. The Rincon Band also donated $10 million, according to the state records.
A press release by “Californians for Tribal Sovereignty and Safe Gaming” issued last week said it would run a campaign opposing the initiative proposed by BallyBet, BetMGM, DraftKings, Fanatics, FanDuel, Penn National/Barstool Sportsbook, and WynnBET. Those companies have pledged to spend $100 million on their initiative.
The “Californians for Tribal Sovereignty and Safe Gaming” indicated that the San Manuel, Rincon Band and Wilton Rancheria plan to back its opposition campaign with $100 million as well.
Sportsbooks’ Petition at Key Threshold
The sportsbooks unveiled their initiative in late August, proposing to use the proceeds from legalized sports betting to support mental health initiatives and efforts to combat homelessness.
“Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support” amended their proposal to include opportunities for tribal access and provide funding for tribal communities. However, tribal leaders still declined to support the plan.
Supporters of the sportsbooks’ plan started gathering signatures on their petition in early November. A month ago, proponents reported that they reached the 25 percent threshold. According to the Secretary of State’s office, it’s the first online sports betting measure to have reached that threshold.
Nathan Click, a spokesperson for the sportsbook-backed initiative, told Casino.org Tuesday that organizers “continue to make good progress” on gathering the 997,139 signatures they need to get on the ballot.
Regarding the tribe’s plan to match them dollar-for-dollar, Click said they would not be deterred.
“Our measure is proving to be incredibly popular with Californians,” he said. “Ours will be the only measure on the ballot that will guarantee hundreds of millions annually to help solve homelessness and support mental health care. Nearly half of the country has now authorized online sports betting – proving it can be safely regulated and generate significant revenue to help states solve big problems. Our measure also provides millions in revenue for California Tribes — both to gaming and non-gaming Tribes alike.”