Can FanDuel, Tribes Mend Path To Legal California Sports Betting?

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California sports betting

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. FanDuel Sportsbook is attempting to mend fences with California tribes and find a pathway to participating in legal sports betting. 

James Siva, vice chairman for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, told LSR Wednesday that FanDuel Sportsbook indicated its willingness to be a B2B operator in a future legalized CA sports betting landscape. 

“FanDuel has been more amenable to reach out to a number of tribes,” Siva, who also serves as chairman for the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, said at the Indian Gaming Association Mid-Year Conference at Foxwoods Resort Casino. “I’ve heard from a number of tribes that they’ve reached out. I haven’t heard much from DraftKings, whether they’ve reached out.” 

FanDuel, DraftKings mum on California

A FanDuel spokesperson said there was “nothing new to report” prior to Siva’s comments.

A DraftKings Sportsbook spokesperson also declined comment earlier Wednesday. 

Still, it appeared to be a positive development in terms of a tribal, commercial operator relationship in CA that has been deeply fractured.

Could FanDuel really be a B2B in CA?

When commercial operators waived the white flag in 2022, FanDuel CEO Amy Howe had said: “We absolutely live to fight another day. 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.” 

The path could mean the no. 1 sports betting operator in the US being a B2B provider in California. 

“Very much so,” Siva replied when asked if FanDuel was amenable to such an agreement. “I think they realize that California is a lot different than they had anticipated being on the outside. I think they have had a platform and a gameplan for them that has worked in other states. And I think they thought it would work here in California.” 

California sports betting outreach

Siva explained, from his perspective, how the operator meetings have gone so far. 

“We’ve had some outreach, very much kind of the hat-in-hand meetings where they come in and didn’t outright apologize. But we’re very much what do we need to do to be able to get to the goal,” Siva said. 

“There will be some relationship between them with the industry, but it’s not going to be them at the same operator level as tribes. It’s going to be them providing a service to us like the slot companies like IGT, Konami, where they come in and are a vendor or service provider.

“That’s the relationship I think we see as tribes with California, and I think the bigger ones are coming to that realization. Not all of them, but some of them.” 

‘Quiet’ CA sports betting action in 2024

After Proposition 27 was heavily defeated at the ballot box in 2022, the 2024 legislative cycle is expected to be a quiet period for California sports betting.

The tribes already adopted a defensive posture in terms of having a ballot initiative ready in case the commercial operators decide to file at the last minute. Tribes also ran a competing initiative in 2022 that also was defeated resoundingly.

“We haven’t heard any whispers of anything close to being filed,” Siva said. “So I think they were waiting for us, we were waiting for them, and now we’re just kind of going to let the deadline come and pass without any action.” 

Tribes paying attention to Florida

Siva said conversations could increase in 2026, as California tribes keep a close eye on the Florida sports betting case.

The hub-and-spoke model that the Seminole Tribe of Florida has via its state compact is something that could be appealing to CA tribes, Siva said. 

“You can have multiple agreements between tribes, so tribes in a specific region, one tribe can be the hub and then the other ones can be the spoke,” Siva said. “They can all set the same betting lines and have the same revenue pool to draw from. 

“Because with the sheer number of tribes and the geographic differences, it’s really difficult to have any kind of online model that is going to get support from a majority of tribes. So I think the hub-and-spoke has probably the best potential for California of other models we’ve seen.”

California sports betting through tribes

The tribes have repeatedly said the road to legalizing CA sports betting runs through them. California law gives Native American gaming operators exclusivity over most forms of gambling in the state.

“They’re not going to be our partners. They’re going to be our tech providers,” IGA conference chairman Victor Rocha said previously. 

Added Mark Macarro, tribal chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians: “Everything needs to flow the tribes. Until that lesson is learned, just stay out of California.” 

Macarro: relations must improve

While it may be a multiple-year process, Macarro believes things need to change in a significant way

“I’m hoping there’s some adults in the rooms at these corporate entities like DraftKings,” Macarro said. “I doubt it, but I hope so. And the others. And they realize we need to not look at California right now, because that would be the smart thing to do. Just wait it out. It’s going to be a few years.”