California Sports Betting Bill Receives League Support, But Tribes Vow To ‘Vigorously Fight’ Passage

California’s sports betting bill, approved last week by the state’s Senate Committee, has already garnered its fair share of opponents and supporters. 

The bill, SCA-6, proposes an amendment to the California constitution that sets forth a framework and implementation details for legal sports betting in the state. If made into law, SCA-6 would allow California’s racetracks and tribal casinos to operate retail and online sportsbooks. 

Since the senate committee approved the bill, at least one Native American Tribe has voiced vehement opposition. On the other hand, professional sports leagues are widely supporting the bill. 

California Tribes Oppose Sports Betting Bill 

Last week, Anthony Roberts, tribal chairman of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation of Yolo County, sent a letter to state Senator Bill Dodd (who proposed the amendment) and Assemblyman Adam Gray opposing the bill. 

The Yocha Dehe Nation owns and operates California’s Cache Creek Casino Resort.

Roberts made the tribe’s opposition crystal clear in his letter: “Yocha Dehe’s opposition to this measure could not be stronger, and we vow to vigorously fight it at every turn.”

Though SCA-6 proposes a framework that allows tribal casinos to operate sports betting, it also grants new rights to California’s card rooms, which have historically been prohibited from offering certain games that tribal casinos are allowed to offer. 

Under current California law, card games in which the casino has a stake in the outcome are only allowed in tribal casinos. Card rooms can’t offer such games now, but the bill would give them express permission to do so. 

Games prohibited outside tribal casinos by current law include blackjack, baccarat, and three-card poker among others. 

Tribal casino operators have long opposed any measures that would allow card rooms to expand their offerings, and it appears SCA-6 is no exception. 

SCA-6 would also allow tribal casinos to offer craps and roulette, games previously outlawed by California. 

Despite the advantages in the bill, the tribes are united in their opposition to Senator Dodd’s bill. In a statement from the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, organization Chairman James Siva wrote: “While we appreciate Senator Dodd’s attempt to address sports wagering, we are vehemently opposed to including an expansion of gaming to a segment of the gaming industry that has proved, for decades, to be unwilling to follow the rules and regulations that guarantee a fair and safe gambling environment, and that comply with federal laws designed to stop money laundering.”

In the full statement, Chairman Siva continues to urge Senator Dodd to eliminate any parts of the bill that allow California’s cardrooms to expand. 

Sports Leagues Voice Support For California Sports Betting

The Golden State is home to 15 major league sports teams, and many of those leagues are expressing support for California’s sports betting bill.

SCA-6 proposes a requirement for sports betting operators to use official league data, and the leagues are pushing their support of the bill through letters to Senator Dodd. 

In a joint statement, the NBA, MLB, and PGA Tour outline their support for SCA-6, saying it creates “a framework for sports betting in California that will diminish the illegal market and capture significant tax revenue for the state.”

The NFL offered a statement of support as well. In it, Jonathan Nabavi, Vice President of Public Policy and Government Affairs, says that the bill includes “measures that will help protect the integrity of sports in a regulated sports betting environment.” Nabavi continues to say that the NFL plans to assist California lawmakers as they move the legislation forward. 

California’s Sports Betting Future

Supporters and opponents of California’s sports betting bill are ramping up their efforts, so it’s unclear whether the bill will move forward. If it does, California voters will see it on their November ballots.  

Should SCA-6 become law, it would still take months, possibly over a year, for California to launch full-fledged sports betting. After legislation, licensing processes need to be ironed out and operators must apply for those licenses. On top of that, operators need time to build out their retail and online sportsbooks. 

Even with California’s current momentum, the amendment would only be an initial step toward sports betting. If SCA-6 passes, the state could possibly see sportsbooks live in late 2021. 

About the Author

Cole Rush

Cole Rush is a Chicago-based freelance writer in the gambling, media, and entertainment space. His work has been showcased in various gaming industry magazines and online columns. Prior to freelance writing, Cole spent seven years in communications at a gambling and lottery supplier. Cole writes for a number of online and print publications, including The Quill To Live, a book review site.