The battle for control over a potential legal California sports betting was reignited after two ballot initiatives were submitted to the Attorney General’s office late last week. Both proposals seek to give California tribes exclusive rights to operate online and in-person sports betting.
Additionally, the two proposals will keep non-tribal operators out of the state.
The initiatives would give complete control of California sports betting to the state’s tribes. However, many of those tribes are not supporting this effort.
Ballot initiatives aim to launch legal California sports betting in 2025
Ryan Tyler Walz of the group Eagle One Corp filed the measure. He does not appear to be affiliated with any tribal entity. If the initiatives get enough signatures, they could be on the ballot in 2024.
One initiative would give the tribes exclusivity of retail and online sports betting. The second would bar any non-tribal entity from entering the market.
“Online and in-person sports wagering must be well-regulated by Indian tribes, the federal government, and the State of California, to stamp out the black market of illegal gambling operations and to allow adults, whose age-eligibility has been verified in person, the choice to participate in this activity with strong consumer protections,” read the fhe filing of the proposed Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act.
This move comes after California voters rejected two sports betting propositions at the ballot box in the 2022 election.
According to the new proposal, tribes could contract a sports betting company to create online betting apps. However, the app must be branded with the tribes’ names and not a national commercial brand. The measure would also allow tribal casinos to expand table game offerings on property.
If passed, this could give the tribes the inside track for control of a possible future California online casino industry.
Customers would need to be at least 21 years old to bet. Also, any online sports betting account must be registered in person at a California casino, which are also controlled by the state’s tribes. Legal sports betting would not start in the Golden State until at least Sept. 1, 2025.
Major California tribes not on board
Despite the initiatives proposing complete California tribal control of sports betting in the state, it doesn’t appear they will likely go very far. Several major tribes are already voicing their displeasure with the measures and their lack of input.
James Siva is the chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA). He says the Problem is that the measure appears to only be tribal in name. He adds that the Eagle One Corp did not consult with many key tribal stakeholders.
“The California Nations Indian Gaming Association is deeply disappointed that the sponsors of the two recently filed initiatives did not first reach out to the State’s largest tribal gaming association for consultation and input,” Siva said in a statement. “Instead, CNIGA and our member tribes were alerted to their existence when they were filed with the Attorney General today. Decisions driving the future of tribal governments should be made by tribal governments. While the sponsors of these initiatives may believe they know what is best for tribes, we encourage them to engage with Indian Country and ask, rather than dictate.”
To appear on the November 5, 2024, general election ballot, the initiatives need 874,641 valid signatures over the next four months. If approved, tribes would be required to submit 15% of their adjusted sports wagering gross gaming revenue into the Tribal Sports Wagering Revenue Sharing Trust Fund. They would also give 10% to the California Homelessness and Mental Health Fund.