DraftKings CEO Jason Robins doesn’t think California sports betting will get legalized in the 2024 election.
And perhaps not even in the 2026 election.
He shared those thoughts earlier in March during a YouTube interview with Joe Pompliano. Robins touched on a wide range of topics with Pompliano, including what DraftKings can learn from FanDuel. But the two dove into California sports betting a little over halfway through the interview.
“I don’t think it’s a 2024 thing,” Robins said. ” … I think there either has got to be a deal worked out, or we’re just going to be in a stalemate there for at least another (election) cycle or two.”
Why not in 2024?
In order for sports betting in California to become legal, voters must approve a ballot initiative in an election. Prop 27, the online sports betting initiative backed by DraftKings and other US sportsbooks, famously failed in the 2022 election with more than 80% of Californians voting “no.”
Prop 26, which would have legalized in-person sports betting at tribal casinos and horse racetracks, didn’t fare much better. But tribes poured most of their funding into beating Prop 27. In other words, Prop 26 became somewhat irrelevant.
“I’d say as of now, there’s really just too much tribal opposition to imagine us getting anything done,” Robins told Pompliano. ” … I think it’s going to take a little time to play out. I don’t see this being a short-term thing. It’s the biggest prize, and so not surprisingly it’s going to be the hardest battle.”
Robins said the amount of money California tribes spent to defeat Prop 27 — around $240 million — doomed the initiative. He thinks that would happen again if the tribes want to spend that money again.
“Certainly the first time it’s on the ballot and it’s being contemplated and people are forming opinions — if someone wants to drop $220 (million), $230 (million), whatever-it-is million dollars in a single state of ad spend, they can certainly poison the well enough to kill it,” Robins said.
Tone has changed since November
Robins’ tone differs from what he and FanDuel CEO Amy Howe conveyed in November following the 2022 election. Both sportsbook leaders indicated they would try again in 2024. They expressed confidence an initiative would pass and go into effect by early 2025.
Now … not so much.
Since the election, California tribal leaders have touted the historic defeat of Prop 27 as proof that either they will dictate how sports betting runs in California, or there will be no sports betting at all. Some leaders have publicly said the only way they see US sportsbooks operating in California is solely as technology providers for the tribes.
At just shy of 40 million residents, California is by far the most populous state in the country. Texas has the second-largest population at 30 million. Experts projected ahead of the 2022 election that a mature California sports betting market could generate as much as $3.2 billion in annual revenue.
For comparison, that’s more than the total handle — not revenue, handle — PlayCA projects 14 states will generate in 2023.