Tribes Target Fresno Mayor’s Support Of California Sports Betting Proposal

Written By David Danzis on April 12, 2022 - Last Updated on October 18, 2022
California sports betting

A city mayor is the latest political target in the ongoing battle to control legalized California sports betting.

Fresno voters are receiving mailers suggesting Mayor Jerry Dyer’s support of a CA online sports betting initiative is putting children at risk.

The mailer’s message is that online gambling is addictive, and the digital option is more appealing to children.

Who is sending the ominous advertisements? Native American tribes who have their own California sports betting plan.

The direct shot at Dyer is the latest volley in a public relations war over legalizing sports betting in the Golden State. Each side claims its sports betting proposal will benefit Californians the most.

But the business of sports gambling is not public charity. To the victor goes the spoils, which in this case means determining the direction of what could be the United State’s largest – and most lucrative – regulated sports betting market.

‘The medium is the message’

The mailers are significant for two reasons.

For starters, they target an individual politician rather than a large corporation or specific ballot proposal.

Dyer is not the only elected official supporting this proposal, nor is he a particularly influential figure in state politics.

Secondly, the mailers only encourage voters to “reject the corporate online gambling proposition,” while highlighting the dangers of digital gaming to youngsters. No mention is made of the potential pitfalls of in-person gambling or land-based sports betting.

“Mayor Dyer endorsed a ballot measure sponsored by out-of-state online gambling corporations that would turn virtually every cell phone, tablet and laptop into a gambling device,” the mailer reads.

California sports betting options

California voters may face as many as four sports betting initiatives on November’s ballot. So far, a tribal-backed measure to allow retail sports wagering at casinos and racetracks is the only one to qualify.

The others include another tribal proposal, as well as one backed by California card rooms and one being pushed by online operators, such as DraftKings and FanDuel.

Proponents of those three proposals are still gathering the necessary signatures. The deadline for petitions is this month.

California sports betting: The devil is in the details

Dyer, the Fresno mayor who took office in January 2021, is backing the last of those options.

Formally known as the California Sports Wagering and Consumer Protection Act, the proposal would allow tribal casinos, state-licensed card rooms, race tracks, and professional team venues to offer retail sports betting. It would also permit online and mobile sports betting in California.

If approved, the proposal would impose a 10% tax on sports betting revenue. Of that, 85% would go toward a new homelessness and mental health services fund. The remaining 15% goes to the Tribal Economic Development Account.

Dyer told a local news station last year that he supported the measure because of how it would use the sports betting tax revenue.

Fresno is also home to two card rooms. A coalition of card room host municipalities opposes the tribal-backed initiative, claiming it would cause severe economic harm to their communities.

Rolling the dice on gambling monopoly

The California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act is the tribes’ ballot initiative.

If approved, this proposal would legalize retail sports betting at tribal casinos and four racetracks. What’s more, it would also allow tribal casinos to offer Las Vegas/Atlantic City-style roulette and dice games.

This gambling expansion excludes California card rooms. The second tribal-backed proposal (which has not yet qualified for the November ballot) would remove that provision.

Photo by Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press
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David Danzis

David Danzis is a lead writer and analyst for CatenaMedia's network of Play sites, appearing on PlayNJ, PlayCA and PlayOH. He is a New Jersey native and an honors graduate of Rutgers University. As a newspaper reporter for the New Jersey Herald and Press of Atlantic City, David earned statewide awards for his coverage of politics, government, education, sports, and business. After years of reporting on Atlantic City casinos, NJ online gambling and sports betting, his focus is now on emerging gaming markets. David lives in NJ with his wife and two children. When not on the beach, golf course, or snowboarding, David enjoys watching his beloved New York sports teams — Yankees, Jets, Rangers, and Knicks.

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