An Atwater council member recently received a Google alert. It said he opposed the tribal gaming initiative on California’s November ballot.
He had, in fact, offered no position.
Soon after, though, he made it clear. City Councilman Brian Raymond favors the Legalize Sports Betting on American Indian Lands Initiative.
There are two sports betting initiatives set to go onto California’s November ballot. One would allow only in-person sports betting at a tribal casino. The other would allow online sports betting anywhere in the state.
After the erroneous Google alert, Raymond said he doubted it was a result of the opposition’s dishonesty. He thinks it was just a mistake.
He did not name any names from the “no” campaign, but the strongest opposition comes from the competing initiative. That proposal would legalize mobile sports betting and is supported to the tune of $100 million by industry giants such as FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, Penn National and others.
Supporting the tribes and their land
Raymond favors the tribal initiative to permit land-based sports gambling at casinos and select racetracks.
“For the record, I absolutely support the upcoming ballot measure that would allow in-person sports betting at tribal casinos. I’m not a gambler myself, but tribal casinos have proven to be good neighbors and huge economic drivers across the Central Valley.”
The tribal initiative would keep all California gaming on tribal lands, just as it has been since becoming legal in 1988. It is estimated to generate tens of millions of dollars for the state’s general sports wagering fund. The fund would be created in the process.
This measure would create additional revenue and job opportunities for tribes and their members. Raymond also believes it will help other local businesses near casinos.
He thinks tribes have every right to expand into sports betting. Tribes are sovereign nations, and thus should be able to offer sports betting on their own land if they wish.
Raymond: Money won’t solve homelessness
Mobile sports betting could generate hundreds of millions of dollars for the state as opposed to tens of millions from retail wagering. Much of that money would go to tackling homelessness, mental health and addiction in the state.
California is the second-most expensive state to live in the United States, behind only Hawaii. High housing prices are one of the biggest reasons for that. It’s an issue that would likely need to be addressed in order to move the needle on the homelessness problem.
Raymond is unconvinced more money will fix the problem. For example, the state has spent $30 billion on its homelessness problem over the last five years. He claims the problem is just as bad as it’s ever been.
He also cited the state’s inability to build a bullet train between San Francisco and Los Angeles and to improve education via the lottery.
Furthermore, Raymond raised concerns that these funds will go to 97% of California’s cities. While Atwater is one of those cities, it would receive proportionate funding that would ultimately leave it overlooked given its low population of 30,000.
‘Protect the promise’
Cody Martinez, chairman of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, said one issue rises above all others. Indian nations were granted exclusive rights to gaming in California. Martinez’s tribe is asking voters to “protect the promise.”
ProtectTribalGaming.com, a coalition of the San Manuel, Rincon and Pala tribes, has also spoken out. The group calls the mobile sports betting measure “a direct attack on tribal sovereignty.”
The site says it will threaten the $23.2 billion California tribal gaming industry. That includes its more than 80,000-plus jobs. It claims out-of-state operators will take over 90% of profits out of the state while creating no new jobs for Californians.
Under the online gaming measure, tribes unaffiliated with sportsbooks would receive 15% of all tax revenue. The other 85% would go to fight homelessness, etc. Proponents of the tribal-backed measure believe its proposal will do much more for tribes. It will grow their economic standing, provide new job opportunities and promote self-sufficiency.
Larger cities favor mobile initiative
Key leaders in bigger cities support the online gaming initiative. The list includes Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and San Diego’s CEO of the Regional Task Force on Homelessness Tamera Kohler.
They see the potential millions of dollars the California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Act will bring their cities. Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia is also on board. So is Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer, who said more funding is badly needed to combat homelessness.
“This ballot measure would give cities like Fresno a guaranteed funding source to address homelessness. To truly solve this critical issue and give those most vulnerable among us the housing, mental health and addiction treatment they need, there must be an ongoing revenue stream. This initiative would do just that.”
According to Kohler, San Diego could receive over $30 million annually if mobile sports betting comes to fruition in California. That money would be used for homeless outreach, shelters, housing and more.
Californians already betting on sports online
Whether either measure passes in November, Californians will still continue to place mobile wagers. Half the searches in the US on sports betting go to unregulated sites, recent data show.
In California, 75% of sports betting searches go to illegal companies.
The state represents the largest potential sports betting market in the nation. Estimates are upwards of $3 billion annually. That is a lot of missed revenue.
Could both initiatives pass this fall?
Historically in California, if two competing measures both pass, then the one with the higher percentage total of votes wins. The mobile sports betting bill, however, was written so as to not conflict with the Tribal Act. That means they both could go into effect if voters approve.
Things could get interesting if the tribes receive a higher percentage vote, though. They may try to fight against the mobile initiative in court. If both pass and the mobile initiative wins by a wider margin, the tribes could operate on their own or strike deals with sportsbooks approved to operate in the state.
In the meantime, Californians have two sports betting initiatives to research and decide upon before November.