A tribal online sports betting measure fell a little more than 30,000 votes short of qualifying for the 2024 election.
After a full check by local counties, the Age-Verified Tribal Online and In-Person Sports Wagering Regulatory Act tallied 964,762 valid signatures. It needed 997,139 valid signatures to qualify.
It’s the most signatures ever for a California initiative that failed to qualify.
Chairmen of the San Manuel, Rincon, Graton Rancheria and Wilton Rancheria tribes filed the California sports betting initiative as a tribal alternative to an online sports betting measure backed by sportsbook companies.
That initiative, Prop 27, and in-person tribal sports betting measure Prop 26 are on the ballot in 2022. But pollsters project both competing initiatives to go down in defeat Nov. 8. Props 26 and 27 faced double-digit deficits in recent polling.
Strange journey for tribal online sports betting measure
Backers originally intended the tribal online sports betting measure for the 2022 election. But it was filed late in the game, the last of four sports betting initiatives filed for the election cycle.
Rincon and Graton Rancheria originally took the lead in pitching the measure to other tribes. But San Manuel signed on as a surprise sponsor.
Much of the language for statewide online sports betting outside tribal lands was based on the Seminole compact in Florida. But before the initiative wording was finalized, a US District Judge invalidated the Seminole compact. The petitioners didn’t have much time to make changes before the deadline to amend the proposal.
Given the late filing, the tribes couldn’t use the full six months to collect signatures before the due date to qualify for the 2022 election. But it didn’t make much sense to put it on the ballot anyway.
Two sports betting propositions already were battling it out on the ballot. San Manuel’s main focus was defeating Prop 27, to which it has contributed more than $100 million. The tribes knew it would be difficult to defeat one online sports betting initiative without hurting their own.
So petitioners used the full six months and submitted past the 2022 deadline, setting it up for possible qualification in 2024.
Roger Salazar, spokesman for the campaign, explained in a press release:
“We sincerely thank the 900,000 Californians who signed on to support this measure. While we believe an age-verified tribal measure represents the best path forward for online sports wagering for California, its tribes, residents and communities, we made a strategic decision this year to concentrate our full resources on defeating Proposition 27.”
Coming up short on signatures
With the focus on defeating Prop 27, San Manuel’s initiative became an afterthought.
But given the uncertainty around the Seminole case and the time ahead for tribes as a group to discuss online sports betting, the tribes involved likely will want different language in a 2024 online sports betting initiative by the time the next general election rolls around anyway.
Still, collecting so many signatures to fall short of qualifying couldn’t have been part of the plan. The tribes submitted 1,315,651 signatures. That was more than 250,000 fewer than Prop 27 and more than 100,000 less than Prop 26.
PlayCA estimates gathering those signatures likely cost more than $10 million.
A tribal online sports betting initiative could still make the 2024 ballot
Other than the money thrown away to collect signatures, there’s no real cost to the measure failing to qualify. And that paled in comparison to the overall money spent on the 2022 initiative battle, anyway.
Tribes can just file another initiative in late summer or early fall and collect signatures all over again. Even if it had qualified, they likely would have scrapped it to file a new measure with different language.
“After the November election, we will regroup with California tribes and other key stakeholders to develop a 2024 sports wagering initiative that provides the best options for tribes and all Californians,” Salazar said.
The measure introduced two tribal perspectives on online sports betting that are noteworthy for future efforts:
- Online sports betting apps were required only to use tribal brands.
- Signing up for an online sports betting account required in-person registration at a tribal casino.