Tribal Online Sports Betting Initiative Fails On Random Count, Longshot On Full Count

Written By Matthew Kredell on September 7, 2022 - Last Updated on September 12, 2022
San Manuel initiative fails to qualify for 2024 ballot

The California Secretary of State announced Friday that an online sports betting measure backed by Indian tribes did not qualify for the 2024 election by random sample.

Now the initiative moves to a full count of valid signatures, where the sample results also project it will fail.

Based on the random sample verification results from the 58 counties, the California sports betting initiative backed by the San Manuel, Rincon, Graton Rancheria and Wilton Rancheria tribes fell well short.

Qualifying on random count requires showing 110% of the 997,139 valid signatures required to make the ballot. That’s 1,096,853 signatures.

Initiatives need to show 95% of the required signatures even to make it to a full count. It barely did so. Counties projected the San Manuel proposal to have 955,807 valid signatures. That’s more than 40,000 less than needed to qualify.

San Manuel initiative originally intended for 2022

Two sports betting initiatives are fighting it out on the November ballot. Proposition 26 includes in-person sports betting at California tribal casinos and California horse racing venues. Proposition 27 has online sports betting in partnership with Indian tribes.

The San Manuel proposal combines both options. But it doesn’t include the clause attacking California cardrooms that may sink Prop 26. And it limits online operators partnering with tribes to use only tribal brands on California sports betting apps, while also requiring in-person registration at tribal properties.

Originally, this measure was introduced as a third alternative. But the San Manuel group opted to focus on opposing Prop 27 this election cycle.

The campaign waited until after the 2022 deadline to submit its initiative. And then it only submitted 1,315,651 raw signatures, putting qualifying for 2024 in doubt.

Failure is an option for tribal online sports betting measure

If the initiative fails on a full count, that’s still not the end of the line for a San Manuel-backed online sports betting initiative in 2024.

The tribe and its partners could introduce another initiative next year and qualify it for the 2024 ballot.

That means the money spent collecting signatures on this initiative, likely in excess of $10 million, goes to waste. The tribes will have to spend again to collect signatures on the new initiative.

But that might be necessary anyway. A decision next year in the case involving the Seminole Tribe’s online sports betting model in its compact with the State of Florida could also invalidate the method for offering sports wagering off tribal lands proposed in this initiative.

If that happens, San Manuel would want to file a new initiative with a different model for tribes to offer online sports betting.

Photo by Shutterstock / PlayCA
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Matthew Kredell

A fifth-generation Californian, Matthew's reporting on the legalization of sports betting began in 2010 with an article for Playboy Magazine on how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting the expansion of regulated sports betting. After graduating from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News. He has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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