Prominent Tribal Member Sees CA Sports Betting Legislative Compromise As Way Forward

Written By Matthew Kredell on October 5, 2022 - Last Updated on November 2, 2022

With polling showing that both California sports betting initiatives are heading toward defeat, people are considering how California can move forward on the issue.

Victor Rocha believes that a legislative compromise is the way to go. But only if the sports betting operators show up to Sacramento hats in hand ready to let the tribes take the lead.

Rocha, owner and editor of and an enrolled member of the Pechanga Band of Lusieno Indians that led support of in-person tribal sports betting Prop 26 and opposition of online sports betting Prop 27, explained to PlayCA:

“There needs to be one sports betting measure on the ballot that everyone gets behind. And the best way to reach such a compromise is through the legislature. Otherwise, each side could keep spending $500 million each election cycle to get nothing.”

A tribal perspective on the California sports betting ballot battle

Rocha, who also serves as a conference chair for the Indian Gaming Association and hosts webinars in conjunction with the IGA, spends much of his time thinking about tribal issues. And no tribal issue has made the news in the Golden State this year more than California sports betting.

The outspoken Rocha provided some thoughts on the sports betting ballot battle on Twitter:

  • If both initiatives fail, tribes win.
  • Tribes knew going after Prop 27 would hurt Prop 26, but not attacking wasn’t an option.
  • The tribes wanted to take this battle to the ballot, where outsiders have a difficult time.
  • To the tribes, the sports betting consortium represents the new face of colonization. Instead of land, water and minerals, they’re coming for their casinos.
  • Relationships between tribes and sports betting operators have been damaged.
  • Operators must be “subservient” to the tribal vision of gambling in California to repair those relationships and move beyond this election dustup.

“My tweets were really about trying to figure out how we can move forward,” Rocha said. “The conclusion I came to was that the sports betting consortium has to be subservient to the tribal vision of what gambling is in California. The tribes are going to call the shots. The tribal vision is retail first, then mobile.”

How this could have gone differently

Rocha contends that operators should have let Prop 26 run unopposed and supported it to victory. Doing so would have launched retail sports betting in California, and the tribes would have been more willing and ready to talk online sports wagering in 2024.

Once operators came with their initiative, tribes shifted from pushing Prop 26 to defeating Prop 27. They’re happy to keep the status quo.

“If you want to keep score, this is what the tribes consider a victory,” Rocha said. “[Tribes] spent millions of dollars to define the issue before it was out of the crib, which was quite spectacular. We knew how insane it would be to push ours and kill theirs at the same time. We knew coming in that two ballot initiatives almost certainly meant both were going to lose.”

Rocha explained that tribes know they will have to work with the companies behind Prop 27 if they are to move into sports betting. But they want to control the terms.

“The reason tribes don’t want 27 is about control. The tribes wouldn’t have written the language like that. They wouldn’t have given them so much. The way they squeezed out the smaller companies and stuff like that. Tribes have elevated themselves from poverty and removed themselves from oppressive governments through gaming. Now they want to take the future of gaming from us. It’s about online gaming and we know that. That’s why the fight is so furious.”

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