FanDuel Exec Offers Humble Reflection, Path Forward For Legalizing CA Sports Betting

Written By Phil West on March 14, 2024
FanDuel president shares path forward for CA sports betting legalization

FanDuel president Christian Genetsk talked openly about learnings from failed attempts to make sports betting legal in California. And it’s clear that FanDuel and others interested in getting CA sports betting legalized are not ready to give up.

Genetsk shared reflections and thoughts about moving forward at the FanDuel-sponsored Western Indian Gaming Conference last month.

With a population of 40 million and as one of just 12 states without some form of legal sports betting, California is seen as a big prize to get for sports betting companies. That’s why FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and Fanatics put efforts behind one of two 2022 propositions that aimed to make sports betting legal in the Golden State.

During the conference, Genetsk said of the failed 2022 proposition efforts:

“When I reflect on 2022, I think if I’m being a little charitable it was what I would describe as a well-intentioned but uninformed and misguided attempt. It was definitely a spectacular failure from our perspective, but that’s OK. It wasn’t the time and it wasn’t the right way, and we understand that … It’s going to take us a long time to build anything remotely resembling trust, and we accept that and we appreciate it. If we can get to a place where we can start to move the ball forward on a construct that Indian country recognizes as a productive one, that’s when we’ll actually be some place.”

Sports betting legalization in CA ‘not before 2026’

As Native American tribes in California were behind the other failed 2022 proposition, it could make sense to align for a next attempt in 2026. Genetsk said, regarding that possibility:

“Will it happen by 2026? Well, it’s the first time it can happen. I can go on record that it’s not happening before that. But whether it’s 2026, 2028 or 2030, we’ll know when we know.”

It is possible that 2024 could bring some changes. According to Legal Sports Report, the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA), which has 52 member tribes, is looking into fantasy sports as an option for people who want some form of sports-related wagering that conforms to current law.

And there is the possibility of future ballot initiatives, though any efforts to move those forward for 2024 appear to be stalled.

Lone 2024 legalization attempt never had legs

Kasey Thompson and Reeve Collins, entrepreneurs who launched and sold off Pala Interactive, were the driving forces behind a pair of ballot initiatives filed in the Attorney Generals’ office in October 2023. The measures sought to give California’s tribes full control of the sports betting industry and to prevent non-tribal operators from entering the market. Even so, the state’s tribes weren’t on board.

Apparently, CNIGA only learned about the initiatives when they were filed with the AG’s office. And the push never gained the support of the tribes, who succeeded in halting the latest initiatives.

Once the backers retreated, CNIGA chairman James Siva commented:

“We are pleased that in the face of widespread tribal opposition, the backers of two initiatives have kept their word and withdrawn what we could only regard as a cynical attempt to legalize sports wagering and online betting in California.”

Looking ahead

With a number of lessons learned in 2022, not just by FanDuel, the question of how to move forward remains. But understanding the unique context of California is an important foundation for any potential progress on legalization.

As Genetsk put it:

“I do think California is in a position where you don’t need to say which of the things that have been done before are best for California. I think you start with what are the unique dynamics of California and the role tribes play in California and let’s come up with the best solution. Because there’s not another state that looks like California.”

With over 60 federally recognized tribes involved in gaming in California, finding a framework that works for all is a puzzle yet to be solved.

For operators like FanDuel, working on building trust with tribal entities in CA seems like a good place to start.

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Phil West

Phil West is a longtime journalist based in Austin, Texas, whose bylines have appeared in The Daily Dot, Nautilus, Pro Soccer USA, Howler, Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Antonio Express-News, Austin American-Statesman, and Austin Chronicle. He has also written two books about soccer.

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