Tribes Not Too Happy About That California Sports Betting Amendment

Written By Jessica Welman on July 31, 2017 - Last Updated on August 30, 2022
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There is one very important group not on board with California’s proposed sports betting amendment.

The California tribes are not happy Assemblyman Adam Gray introduced the amendment without consulting them. The California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) publicly warned Gray that the amendment is a violation of numerous tribal compacts.

CNIGA calls amendment “thoughtless”

CNIGA Chairman Steve Stallings spoke out about Gray’s actions last week.

“We have to look at how expansion of gaming will impact our brick-and-mortar casinos, whether its sports betting or poker or anything else,”  Stallings said. “That’s the issue.”

There are currently 62 California tribal casinos operating under compacts with the state. If California sports betting becomes legal, the state would need to renegotiate almost all of them.

Stallings also pointed out that this amendment fails to address how such a venture would even work. It does not consider the operational issues surrounding such gambling expansion. Moreover, Stallings wishes Gray thought to consult with the tribes before taking action.

“But people like Gray don’t give that any consideration. You wonder where we’re even going with this. It’s premature. There’s no thought being given to all these implications,” Stallings added.

The biggest issue surrounding the amendment is that Proposition 1A gives tribes exclusive rights to run California casinos. The question is if sports betting falls under that definition. Currently, California cardrooms are skirting the rules to offer similar casino games as the tribes. Now they might start offering sports bets too.

Other states and tribes clashing on sports betting too

This is not the first time tribes intervened when a state tried to enact gambling legislation. Last year, Oklahoma tribes successfully blocked attempts to get a DFS bill through.

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma state legislature is working on a bill to pave the way for sports betting. No word yet on how the state’s tribal partners feel about the development.

Tribes are not against sports betting altogether

The tribes do not oppose sports betting. They simply want their piece of the pie. With that in mind, it is unsurprising the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) recently joined forces with the American Sports Betting Coalition (ASBC).

The two groups are focusing on the federal efforts to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). Before any of the state-level sports betting amendments can pass, PASPA would need to go away. The hope is when the Supreme Court rules on the New Jersey sports betting case, it will rule the law unconstitutional.

Geoff Freeman of the American Gaming Association spoke on the tribes’ role in lobbying for sports betting:

“We have a window of opportunity to get this done and the National Indian Gaming Association is critical to making it happen. Tribal engagement will help to move the needle forward and as the industry further unites, we will be able to end the failing ban on sports betting and allow our industry to grow.”

The current focus is on federal action, but at some point the states and the tribes will need to discuss who gets which pieces of the pie should sports betting move forward.

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Jessica Welman

A graduate of USC and Indiana University, Jessica Welman has long been involved in the poker industry. She has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and as the managing editor for

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