Third Tribe Backs Online Sports Betting Measure, Not Tribal Act

Written By Tyler Andrews on July 7, 2022 - Last Updated on August 2, 2022
Third tribe is backing the online sports betting initiative

A good number of California Native American tribes are backing the Tribal Sports Wagering Act on November’s ballot. It would allow only tribal casinos and a handful of racetracks to set up retail sportsbooks.

However, a third tribe is backing the online sports betting initiative.

Prop. 27, known as the Solutions Act, is one of two sports betting measures on November’s ballot. It allows for online California sports betting. Revenue would be taxed at 10%. Eighty-five percent of that would be used to fight homelessness and mental heath issues.

Licenses under Prop. 27 cost $100 million. Tribes can also get licenses for $10 million. Financial backers of Prop. 27 include major online sportsbooks like DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM.

Prop. 26, the Tribal Sports Wagering Act, would allow in-person sports betting at tribal casinos and racetracks. It would not legalize mobile sports betting. Revenue at the retail sportsbooks would be taxed at 10%. Backers of Prop. 26 include a coalition of 25 California tribes.

Tribal support for Prop. 27 has surged

The Santa Rosa Rancheria Tachi Yokut tribe is the third tribe in a week to endorse Prop. 27. The Tachi Yokut are located in Lemoore in King’s County, east of Monterrey in the San Joaquin Valley.

The other two tribes behind Prop. 27 — the Big Valley and Middletown bands of Pomo Indians — are located in Sonoma County, north of the Bay Area. All three operate casinos in relatively rural areas, with Middletown being the smallest of the three.

Prop. 27 is securing significant support in northern and central California, home to 45 of the state’s tribal casinos.

Fighting homelessness unifies rural tribes

The majority of the 109 tribes living in California struggle with the repercussions of homelessness, the rural tribes most of all. 

In fact, of the 66 tribal casinos in California, around 20 have fewer than 350 slot machines. Most of these “mini” casinos are in rural areas and have little impact on the poverty and homelessness rate.

Last week, Middletown Tribal Chairman Jose Simon released an ad in support of Prop. 27 that addressed “false” attacks made against the measure by other tribal groups. The ad supports “permanent solutions” to the problem of homelessness that plague “financially-disadvantaged tribes that don’t own big casinos.” 

Leo Sisco, Chairman of the Tachi Yokut Tribe, echoed the ad’s sentiment.

“[Prop. 27] is the only measure that will deliver hundreds of millions of dollars each year to help solve homelessness and address mental health in California.”

Sisco’s estimations aren’t inflated. Fiscal analysis projects online sports betting revenues to be in the mid-hundreds of millions of dollars.

Prop. 27 secures partnerships with tribes

Specifically, Prop. 27 stipulates that all online sportsbooks partner with a federally recognized Indian tribe. The partnership gives tribal casinos a boost in online traffic through partnerships with major sportsbooks.

The measure also incentivizes tribes to establish their own sportsbooks by charging them a tenth of the licensing fee outside operators pay. For small tribes looking to increase their investment in the gambling industry as a pathway to sovereignty, these incentives are promising.

“Prop. 27,” Sisco said, “will provide us with economic opportunity to fortify our tribe’s future for generations and protect tribal sovereignty.”

While 85% of the tax revenue goes to combating homelessness, the remaining 15% goes to non-gaming tribes. 

Tribal coalition criticizes out-of-state operators

The majority of the online sportsbooks funding Prop. 27 come from outside California. These companies have also received a barrage of attack ads. Most are from the Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming, the tribal coalition backing Prop. 26. 

The criticism has focused on money funneling away from tribes and into the pockets of large operators. They generate skepticism toward the industry. They also paint the major operators as outsiders without any stake in the prosperity of the state or the tribes.

The coalition has also trotted out the “problem gambling” argument against the measure. Their attack ads claim Prop. 27 would “expose millions of children to online gambling.” 

Back in 1998 when Prop. 5, “The Indian Gaming Initiative,” was on the California ballot, Nevada casinos used the same approach. They ran similar attack ads featuring a neon sign flashing, “Casino California.” They doubled down by claiming that Prop. 5 would lead to “a wholesale expansion of unregulated casino gaming.” 

Ironically, the tribes that were on the receiving end of those attacks are firing the same shots this time. 

Tribes must decide which measure aids them

Proponents of both measures have vowed to spend heavily on their respective measures. Most of the tribal support is on the side of Prop. 26. But it will be interesting to see how the growing number of tribes in support of Prop. 27 reshape the narrative.

As both initiatives ostensibly put the tribes in the driver’s seat, the question remains as to which initiative secures the best future for the tribes. Simon told the San Francisco Chronicle that it’s a no-brainer.

“We are looking to obviously move into e-commerce, and this gives us an opportunity to do that. We’re supporting the Solutions Act because it gives us an opportunity to protect our sovereignty and also create opportunities for economic wealth for the next seven generations for our tribe.”

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Tyler Andrews

Tyler is the managing editor at, covering sports, sports law, and gambling for the Golden State. However, he has covered similar topics for NCSharp, PlayTexas, PlayFlorida, PlayOhio, and PlayMA. Tyler’s current focus is California's pathway to sports betting legalization.

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