Proponents behind an effort to legalize California sports betting have pulled a pair of initiatives after facing strong opposition from tribal gaming interests. As a result, Californians won’t be voting on sports betting in 2024.
In addition to pushback from most of the 110 federally recognized tribes in California, leading sports betting operators came out against the ballot measures.
Kacey Thompson and Reeve Collins, the duo central to the initiatives, previously laid out an ambitious plan to transition illegal operators to a regulated California sports betting market under tribal control.
However, Thompson confirmed to PlayUSA this week that his team abandoned the effort due to the overwhelming lack of tribal support.
This initiative was supposed to be for the tribes but is only causing division. That was never my intent. I see now the needed unity is not coming, and so I’m standing good to my word and not moving forward. I’m pulling it in full.
Tribal Interests, Operators Opposed Ballot Measures
While proponents managed to wrangle public support from a handful of non-gaming tribes, the California Nation Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) strongly opposed the ballot measures.
CNIGA counts the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians among its 52 tribal members.
In December, CNIGA members voted unanimously to oppose the latest California sports betting charge.
In a statement released Dec. 15, CNIGA chairman James Siva explained the opposition in detail.
The disingenuous nature of these initiatives should be a red flag to every tribal government as well as every voter in California. The proponent of the measures are attempting to divide and conquer tribes by pushing an initiative that attempts to legitimize illicit off-shore operators and putting our governments at risk.
The opposition coming from Indian Country is loud and it is clear. Tribes will not be distracted by outside influences making empty promises. Indian Country will stand firm in protecting our sovereign rights and integrity. We call on the proponents to do the honorable thing and withdraw these flawed initiatives.
As noted, the Sports Betting Alliance (SBA), a coalition of legal US sports betting providers, also came out publicly against the efforts.
The SBA, which includes BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel, and Fanatics, clarified its position to Legal Sports Report in early January.
We recently learned that the authors of two sports wagering initiatives in California are trying to find financial support for signature gathering from sports betting operators. In the interest of clarity, and consistent with our previously stated opposition to these measures, we can commit that SBA won’t be funding or otherwise supporting either of these sports wagering initiatives.
California Sports Betting Unlikely Until 2028
Under current conditions, Siva believes legal California sports betting could be out of the question until 2028.
On a recent Indian Gaming Association (IGA) webcast with Pechanga member and IGA conference chair Victor Rocha, Siva said a proposal is possible in 2026 but more likely in 2028.
Further, he cautioned against pushing when voters still aren’t ready. Siva also favored an incremental approach to online betting.
The reality is you have to get the California voters to approve it, and if they’re not ready to approve any sports betting initiative, don’t put forth a bad one. It’s just going to make it so much more complicated, so much more expensive when tribes do come back and want to push something.
PlayUSA and Legal Sports Report are sister brands to Bonus, part of the Catena Media network.