Tribal Leaders Sound Off On CA Sports Betting Future On IGA Panel

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CA sports betting

SAN DIEGO — The legalization of online CA sports betting in the Golden State may take awhile, perhaps until 2028.

State gaming tribes sound perfectly content with that.

“Nothing’s going to happen in 2024 on their end. These guys can retool everything and bring it in front of the voters, but it’s going to flop again,” Pechanga Chairman Mark Macarro told LSR and PlayUSA.

Robins: ‘I don’t think it’s a 2024 thing’

Multiple tribal leaders responded last week to DraftKings CEO Jason Robins’s recent comments in an interview with Joe Pompliano that the California sports betting stalemate could continue for “at least another cycle or two.” 

The road to legalizing online sports betting in California is difficult to envision after Proposition 27 received just 18% of the vote last year. Both sides spent hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising.

“The fact is, if someone wants to spend that much in opposition, it makes it tough. So until we figure out a way to work that out, I don’t think it’s a 2024 thing,” Robins said. 

Tribal leaders respond to DraftKings

Tribal leaders, now months removed from their resounding victory, were asked about Robins’s comments last week at the Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention.

The failure of Prop 27 maintains the status quo while keeping commercial operators at a distance. Tribes ultimately do not want the likes of FanDuel and DraftKings to have access to what likely would be a lucrative online casino market.

Pechanga chairman Macarro: ‘Cause to be encouraged’

Macarro likened them to an NFL running back taking a handoff and running 15 yards laterally. 

“It sounds like there’s cause to be encouraged, that I don’t think anything’s going to happen. Had he said nothing’s going to happen in 2024, then it’s like, ‘OK, you’ve learned your lesson,’” Macarro said.

Morongo vice chairman Siva: ‘Starting to learn their lesson’

Morongo vice chairman James Siva felt it was a step in the right direction. 

“I think they’re starting to learn their lesson,” Siva said. “I mean, for them, they spent a lot of money and got not even close to the response they wanted or the result they needed. And ultimately (Robins) has interest in his shareholders. So I think it would be a wise move on their behalf to kind of regroup.” 

Still, Siva feels commercial operators need to do outreach to tribes to start the process of making amends. 

“There’s going to be a role for those guys, absolutely. But it’s not going to be at the operator level. It’s going to be a service provider, a vendor. Because tribes are the operators in the state. It’s B2B or nothing. At least that’s my belief,” Siva said. 

Ballot initiatives in CA sports betting

Even if Robins and others are planning to punt on 2024, there is still a strong likelihood that multiple sports betting initiatives will be filed.

That could happen from a tribal perspective “even if it’s only an effort to kind of flush out other potential initiatives,” Siva said. 

Siva later continued: “I’ve heard Mr. Robins, I’ve seen the quote, I think that’s the right thing to say. But I would not be surprised if in a month or two, you see them drop another initiative. 

“My hope would be, if they chose to do that, they do that based on feedback they’re getting directly from tribal leadership. And not just information that they’re getting from their campaign consultants. Because that did not work out well for them.”

Operators decline IGA panel invite on CA sports betting

FanDuel and DraftKings declined an invitation to sit with tribal leaders for an online CA sports betting panel discussion, according to Indian Gaming Association conference chairman Victor Rocha. 

Rocha said he reached out to FanDuel and DraftKings about the possibility of sharing their perspective “in a safe environment” during a March 28 CA sports betting panel on the future of gaming in the Golden State.

“I think this is a hard spot for them after getting their ass beat and probably wouldn’t be a very comfortable experience for them being in front of the tribes and admitting you’re wrong,” Rocha told LSR and PlayUSA

IGA: Would’ve been ‘safe environment’

A spokesperson for FanDuel told LSR the appropriate executives were not available at the time for the panel because of scheduling conflicts. A FanDuel rep did ultimately attend Tuesday’s panel, according to Rocha.

DraftKings told LSR it had no comment.

“We would have created a session for them on what they need to do to move forward, It would have been a safe environment. Obviously you guys lost and that’s fine, we don’t need to go over that. It would be how do you move forward with the tribes,” Rocha said. “… I had a million questions, and that’s without ChatGPT.”

Regardless, the cantankerous relationship between the sides remains in a state of disrepair. A 2024 compromise already seems nearly impossible after the 2022 ballot defeat