California Tribes Tell Sports Betting Backers to Nix Proposal

Posted on: December 16, 2023, 06:49h. 

Last updated on: December 16, 2023, 06:49h.

The California Nationals Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) asked backers of recently filed sports betting proposals to halt those plans.

CNIGA Chair Siva
California Nations Indian Gaming Association Chairman James Siva speaks at the organization’s 2020 conference. The group is asking Eagle1 Acquisition to drop plans for a California sports betting ballot initiative. (Image: CNIGA/Facebook)

In a Friday letter to Eagle1 Acquisitions Corp., LLC executives, CNIGA and another 28 Tribes implored Kasey Thompson, Reeve Collins, and Ryan Tyler Walz to scrap the Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act. The request comes ahead of Jan. 2, the date on which the group can start collecting signatures in an effort to get the initiative on the 2024 ballot.

We are hereby notifying you of the strong opposition from more than half of California tribal nations to these offensive proposals that masquerade as tribal initiatives. Again, we expect you will keep your word and urge you to abandon these proposals without delay,” wrote CNIGA in its letter.

A filing for The Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act surfaced on Oct. 27. Since then, Tribal opposition to the plan has been fierce with California Tribal casino operators saying they weren’t apprised of the filing prior to it becoming public.

California Tribal Heavyweights Oppose Sports Betting Plan

Among the signees on the CNIGA letter are the Agua Calienta, Barona, Graton Rancheria, Rincon, and San Manuel Tribes.

Not only are those operators of some of California’s largest and highest-grossing Tribal casinos, those Tribal nations combined to spend $220 million in 2022 to defeat Proposition 27 – a sports betting proposal backed by commercial gaming companies. That ballot initiative, along with one supported by Tribes, was resoundingly rejected by Golden State voters.

In the letter, CNIG promised it be equally as assertive in defeating The Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act as it was in its effort to quash Prop 27.

“An aggressive campaign will be waged against these reckless initiatives — like in 2022 which resulted in an 82% NO vote — that harm potential legitimate efforts to authorize sports wagering responsibly in California. Tribal governments will not allow our legitimate and highly regulated operations to be used to support a scheme designed to reward these illegal offshore online gambling companies,” added CNIGA.

California Sports Betting Unlikely to Happen Soon

Following the 2022 defeats of Props 26 and 27, California Tribes believe 2024 isn’t the right time to bring the issue before voters again. Data support that claim as recent polling indicates voters in the largest state don’t want to address sports betting again next year.

The Tribes view sports wagering as a 2026 issue, at the earliest with mobile betting being further out than that. One thing is clear: Tribes control California’s landscape. Voters in the state are largely supportive of that status and Tribal sovereignty — assets for Tribes in their bid to defeat the new sports betting pitch.

“Your initiatives are a cynical and deceptive attempt to hijack — for your personal gain — the goodwill tribes have earned and maintained for decades with the people of California,” concluded CNIGA. “According to your own media interviews, these ballot measures are designed to cleanse illegal off-shore online gambling corporations with an appalling track record of illegal gambling, money laundering and other illicit activities.”