After soundly defeating commercial sportsbook operators at the ballot box last year, tribal representatives are openly pondering whether the books will even take another shot at legalizing online CA sports betting in 2024.
“The reality may be that we beat them so badly in 2022 that they may not even pursue an effort in 2024,” tribal attorney Scott Crowell said, according to PlayUSA.
Crowell, who represents the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians, made his online California sports betting remarks at the Western Indian Gaming Conference last week.
“But if that happens, expect them to be back in 2026,” Crowell said.
Difficult path for CA sports betting
The road to legal online sports betting is massively pockmarked given the increased tensions between the tribes and the books.
Proposition 27, which would have legalized online sports wagering in the Golden State, received just 18% of the vote in 2022. The commercial sportsbook operators all but waived white flag before the vote took place.
“We absolutely live to fight another day,” FanDuel CEO Amy Howe said at the time. “We believe there is a path to get there. Whether we get there in 2022, or, hopefully, we get there in 2024, we believe it is the right path.”
Tribes: road runs through us
The tribes say that path runs through them, if it runs at all.
“They’re not going to be our partners. They’re going to be our tech providers,” Indian Gaming Association conference chairman Victor Rocha said at the time.
A tribal-led online sports betting initiative could be an optimal path for California, assuming there is no legislative solution in 2023. As it stands, CA bettors are left with their only legal option being neighboring states Nevada and Oregon.
All-tribes meeting: CA sports wagering
It could be a long time before California gets legalized online sports wagering.
“When will California have sports betting? My gut instinct says 4-6 years. The tribes are in no hurry. They can play defense forever,” Rocha tweeted.
Still, the tribes expect commercial operators to make another concerted effort at some point.
“This fight will not be over until somebody wins a ‘yes’ vote, so don’t read anything into their silence,” Crowell said. “They’re aggressively and actively looking to come in.”
Further discussions will take place at an all-tribes meeting in Sacramento this month.
“They have to understand that if they want a role going forward, they need to approach the tribes from the idea of how do we offer our experience and back-of-the-house skills to the tribes for tribally operated online sports betting,” Crowell said.