And then there were two. The tribal online sports betting initiative backed by three California Indian tribes, and led by San Manuel, will not try to qualify for the November election.
Rather than compete in a toxic environment with two tribal campaigns opposing another online sports betting measure, backers plan to let the dust settle from the 2022 battle and run their initiative in 2024.
Rob Stutzman, a spokesman for Californians for Tribal Sovereignty and Safe Gaming, explained the decision to PlayCA:
“With the ongoing collapse of support for the FanDuel/DraftKings online sports betting measure and the effectiveness of our recent ads, our strategists have recommended that there is a better path for victory in 2024. We’ll continue to gather signatures until July and then submit them to ensure a Tribal-operated mobile sports betting measure with a far better revenue-sharing deal for California is on the 2024 ballot.”
Tribal chairmen of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians and Wilton Rancheria filed the initiative last November.
To get verified in time for 2022, tribes likely would have needed to submit signatures this week.
Now they can wait until July 11 to submit for the 2024 election. That’s the full six months after getting the green light to circulate their petition. The tribes are circulating the initiative and surpassed the 25% mark back in March.
In two years, their initiative could be the only sports betting proposal on the ballot.
Potentially easier path in 2024
The tribes filed their initiative as a response to the online sports betting measure pursued by sportsbook operators.
A letter to other tribes explained the proposal:
“We believe that there is a grave risk that either the DraftKings Measure or the Cardrooms Measure could pass. Right now, tribes do not offer California voters an option for online sports wagering. If the DraftKings Measure or the Cardrooms Measure passes in November 2022, tribes would lose their exclusivity to class III gaming in California and such passage would accelerate the legalization of online gaming by non-tribal interests, threatening the existence of Indian gaming as we know it.”
Since then, the card room measure didn’t qualify. Meanwhile, two tribal coalitions started aggressive campaigns with more than $100 million pledged toward defeating the operator-backed initiative, even though it requires online sportsbooks to partner with tribes.
San Manuel, and the two other tribes backing the online tribal initiative, lead the Protect Tribal Sovereignty & Safe Gaming campaign. This has focused on sportsbook operators being out-of-state corporations looking to turn a profit, not support homelessness efforts in California.
The Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming, the in-person tribal initiative campaign, has attacked online sports betting as being a danger to kids.
Those campaigns seem to be having success, with tribally commissioned polling showing the operator initiative losing support. Tribes no longer believe a viable online alternative to the operator initiative is needed on the 2022 ballot.
A legal challenge against the in-person tribal initiative from card rooms posed another possible reason to submit for 2022. But California courts have rejected the case twice.
The online tribal initiative likely will have a better chance in 2024. Then it might also have more broad tribal support.
What November ballot will look like for sports betting
When the tribes filed their initiative, it appeared four sports wagering measures could fight it out on the November ballot.
Now that’s down to two:
- One backed by Native American tribes to add in-person sports wagering at tribal casinos and horse racetracks
- One backed by sportsbook operators to offer mobile sports wagering through partnerships with Indian tribes
The in-person tribal initiative already qualified for the ballot. Operators submitted 1.6 million signatures last week, which should be enough to easily qualify on a random count. Only 997,139 valid signatures are needed for a constitutional amendment to make the ballot.
On June 30, the California Secretary of State will make official what measures will be on the ballot.