FanDuel CEO Admits California Tribes Must Support Any Sports Betting Effort

Written By Cheryl Coward on April 15, 2024
FanDuel CEO Amy Howe at California Indian Gaming Association Conference

FanDuel CEO Amy Howe minced no words at this week’s Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention in Anaheim when summarizing the efforts of gaming operators to pass a California sports betting measure in 2022.

“It’s a real privilege and an honor to be one of the first CEOs to be here after what was – we can joke about it – it was a spectacular fail.”

Howe spoke on the “Balancing Act: Tribal Sovereignty in the New Frontier of Sports Wagering” panel at the convention, the premier annual gathering of the tribal gaming industry.

Voters soundly rejected both sports betting propositions in 2022

In the fall of 2022, California voters strongly rejected Proposition 27, a ballot measure to legalize California sports betting. Prop 27 was supported by major operators that included FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM.

In full contrition mode, Howe displayed anti-Prop 27 material during her comments.

California voters also opposed a tribe-backed measure, Proposition 26, which would have given the over 100 federally recognized Native American groups in the state the ability to offer in-person sports betting at their casinos.

Voters, turned off by the negative campaigning blasting radio and TV airwaves and the seemingly endless stream of melodramatic campaign flyers in their mailboxes, showed their disgust at the ballot box.

Howe admits that tribal approval is essential

California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) Chairman James Siva (Morongo Band of Mission Indians) was also on the panel. He stressed the importance of gaming operators gaining tribal approval on sports betting legalization.

“It’s about defending and protecting everything we’ve built. The expansion of gaming is going to happen. It’s a matter of when, not where. But when that does happen, tribes will remain in control in California. We’ll partner with companies, we’ll utilize their products, but again, tribes are the operators in California.”

Howe agreed with his assessment.

“At the end of the day, if wagering is going to be done legally in California, it’s going to be done with and through the 100-plus tribes there. For a quarter of a century, the tribes have done a phenomenal job of stewarding the Class III gaming licenses. So, obviously for us, it was a big learning experience. It’s critical for us to do this together and not against one another.”

Hard lesson for outsiders

A more recent effort backed by Eagle1 Acquisitions Corp. to get a sports betting proposition on this year’s ballot underscored their points. It was practically dead on arrival as it tried to get off the ground without consulting the tribes.

CNIGA sprang into action, publicly opposing Eagle1’s plans. Siva put out a strong message when the effort failed.

“Let this failure also be a warning to others that seek to dubiously enter the California gaming market. Using tribes for your own gain will get you nowhere.”

What does the future hold?

The most realistic timeline for a sports betting proposal is 2026. And even then, tribe-controlled retail sports betting would come first, followed by California online sports betting later. Gaming operators like FanDuel would be in the mix to provide sports betting app partnerships and other services, but only at the bidding of tribes.

In the meantime, as California meanders toward sports betting at some point in the future, the industry continues to break records, with events like the Super Bowl and March Madness leading the way in attracting new customers.

San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento and San Jose are set to host early rounds and regionals of men’s and women’s NCAA tournament games in 2025 and 2026. Furthermore, after next season, the next two Super Bowls will be in California (Santa Clara and Los Angeles).


Image Credit: Matthew Kredell / PlayUSA (L-R: FanDuel CEO Amy Howe, California Nations Indian Gaming Association Chairman James Siva and Pechanga Development Corp. Director of Public Affairs Jacob Mejia)

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Cheryl Coward

Cheryl Coward is a contributor for PlayCA with a background in sports journalism. She started her career as a news reporter in Washington, DC. She’s a die-hard women’s basketball fanatic and founded the website as a result of that passion. She has extensive experience covering gambling and sports betting in California, including coverage of the Prop 26 vs. Prop 27 election battle.

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