Although he didn’t explicitly state it, DraftKings CEO Jason Robins hinted compromising with the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians could be key to one day bringing legal sports betting to California.
This happened in March during Robins’ YouTube interview with Joe Pompliano. When asked about his thoughts on the 2022 election and the future of sports betting in California, Robins said he can’t see a future in which California doesn’t eventually legalize sports betting.
Then, he said this:
“But I’d say as of now, there’s really just too much tribal opposition to imagine us getting anything done. I think some of the tribes, particularly the one that’s most been in opposition, does want online gaming and I think there’s potentially a compromise to be done there, but we haven’t necessarily found it yet.”
San Manuel Band spent nearly $150 million to beat Prop 27
There’s only one tribe Robins could be referring to by saying “the one that’s most been in opposition” — the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. The tribe, which owns Yaamava’ Resort & Casino, the largest casino on the West Coast, donated $147 million to defeat Prop 27 this past November. That’s roughly $116 million more than the second-largest tribal donation total.
Interestingly, the San Manuel Band was part of a coalition that tried and failed to get a tribal-led online sports betting initiative on the 2022 ballot.
California Assemblyman James Ramos is a member of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. He is the first Native American elected to the State Assembly, where he’s served since 2018.
How online casinos can play a role in negotiations
The phrase Robins used with Pompliano — “online gaming” — refers to online gambling as a whole, including sports betting and casinos. Some California tribal leaders have said their vehement opposition to online sports betting in 2022 was mainly to preserve their perch atop the California gambling pecking order for whenever online casinos come to the state.
Robins’ quote suggests that, perhaps, DraftKings believes there may be room to negotiate a deal involving online sports betting and online casinos with the San Manuel Band. Appeasing that tribe would remove the majority of the anti-online sports betting funding from 2022.
Of course, a deal like this would take time. Robins said he doesn’t expect sports betting to become legal in California in the 2024 election. The San Manuel Band and all California tribes have the leverage. They proved their opposition to Prop 27 helped spur one of the largest losses in California election history. More than 80% of voters rejected Prop 27.
A technology provider hybrid model?
California tribal leaders have said since the November election the only way they envision betting operators like DraftKings entering the CA market is as technology providers for the tribes.
Could DraftKings and other companies eventually swing a deal where they solely provide tech for online casinos but can promote themselves for sports betting? That’s just one of many ideas swirling around the future of online gaming in California.
And, obviously, those ideas are swirling around in Robins’ head, too.