California Nations Indian Gaming Assn. Officially Opposes Sports Bet Effort

Posted on: November 16, 2023, 05:57h. 

Last updated on: November 17, 2023, 02:38h.

The California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) on Thursday officially opposed a pair of recently floated initiatives aimed at putting the matter of sports betting before the state’s voters in 2024.

James Siva
California Nations Indian Gaming Association Chairman James Siva speaks at a 2020 conference. The group officially opposed two sports betting initiatives in California. (Image: CNIGA)

The Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act, which surfaced on October 27, was proposed by Kasey Thompson and Reeve Collins. They are tribal outsiders and described as a “poker bro” and a “tech bro” in a recent article by Politico. In a statement on CNIGA’s opposition to the effort, Chairman James Siva bashed the approach taken by Collins and Thompson.

The entire effort surrounding these initiatives was handled abhorrently by the initiative sponsors,” said Siva. “It is hard not to be offended when listening to these individuals speak. This is another example of outside influences trying to divide and conquer Indian tribes. We will not let history repeat itself.”

CNIGA, which includes 52 member Tribes, is the trade association for California Tribal casino operators.

New Proposal Already Dead

The backers of the Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act made what now appears to be a catastrophic error. They filed plans for a tribal gaming proposal without consulting the California tribes.

California tribal casino operators have exclusivity compacts with the state, and any additions to Class III gaming, the classification of sports wagering, must go through the tribes. By not doing so, supporters of the Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act may have ensured the proposition’s death soon after its birth.

Additionally, CNIGA recently noted that Collins and Thompson likely didn’t consider voter fatigue on the issue. The 2022 fights over Proposition 26, the Tribal-backed sports betting initiative, and Proposition 27, which commercial gaming companies supported, cost about $250 million. California voters soundly rejected both.

With that in mind, the growing consensus among California Tribal casino operators is that sports betting shouldn’t be revived before the 2026 midterm election cycle.

More Missteps, Some Hope

Making the situation surrounding the fate of the Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act all the worse is that California tribes are signaling a willingness to work with other parties on the issue. They simply want to be consulted first and be the leaders of the plans.

Some CNIGA member tribes see a slight silver lining in the Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act. It could provide some framework for a potential 2026 ballot initiative. But the odds are stacked against sports betting being on the California 2024 ballot.

Additionally, tribal operators in the state want to take a measured approach to sports wagering. They want to start with retail sportsbooks at their casinos before expanding to mobile betting.