Requests for two proposed California sports betting ballot initiatives were filed Friday to the Attorney General’s office, seemingly without the blessing of state tribes.
The initiatives would give tribes exclusivity in offering online and in-person California sports betting, as well as certain casino games. Ryan Tyler Walz and Reeve Collins are listed as proponents.
“These acts are designed to protect CA tribes and CA taxpayers who are seeing their dollars go to offshore unregulated gaming sites,” Collins told LSR Saturday.
However, the proposals already face staunch opposition from major California tribes.
Short window to qualify for ballot
The CA sports betting ballot initiatives are on a time crunch to qualify for the Nov. 5, 2024 election. Petitioners will not have the usual 180 days to gather signatures.
Rather, they will have approximately four months to collect the 874,641 valid signatures required to get on the ballot. And it appears California voters are not eager for online sports betting either.
In 2022, Proposition 27, a measure backed by DraftKings and FanDuel to legalize online sports betting for commercial entities, received just 16% of the vote. It would have legalized online sports betting, but was pitched to voters as a means for addressing homelessness.
Rocha: CA sports betting hopes low
Victor Rocha, conference chairman of the Indian Gaming Association, tweeted:
“This thing is so dead. Kasey Thompson & Ryan Tyler Walz are morons. You heard it here first.”
In a separate tweet, Rocha suggested who he thinks is behind the initiative:
- The Pala Band of Mission Indians
- Pala Interactive (acquired by Boyd Gaming in late 2022)
A Boyd spokesperson said neither Boyd Gaming nor Boyd Interactive have anything to do with the California filing. Collins is the co-founder and CEO of Pala Interactive. Walz’s relationship to Collins is unclear.
Tribal group not happy with initiative
The California Nations Indian Gaming Association issued a strong rebuke of the initiatives on pechanga.net, via chairman James Siva.
“The California Nations Indian Gaming Association is deeply disappointed that the sponsors of the two recently filed initiatives did not first reach out to the State’s largest tribal gaming association for consultation and input. Instead, CNIGA and our member tribes were alerted to their existence when they were filed with the Attorney General today.
“Decisions driving the future of tribal governments should be made by tribal governments. While the sponsors of these initiatives may believe they know what is best for tribes, we encourage them to engage with Indian Country and ask, rather than dictate.”
Major California tribes previously adopted a defensive posture on initiatives for this legislative cycle.
What’s in California sports betting proposals?
A quick summary of the two initiatives:
- The Tribal Gaming Protection Act states “the people herby amend the Constitution to prohibit sports wagering by any operator other than by California Indian gaming tribes.” The governor and legislature would then be able to negotiate a state gaming compact or compact amendment with the tribes.
- The Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act outlines how tribal-led sports betting would operate in the state.
California sports betting details
The initiatives contain pages of details about a somewhat complicated model of operating sports betting in the Golden State:
- Sports betting could be offered no earlier than Sept. 1, 2025.
- It would be a hub-and-spoke model.
- All sports betting operations would be branded exclusively under the tribe’s federally recognized name. Therefore, co-branding with a commercial online or in-person sports betting operator is prohibited.
- Commercial sports betting operators who are managing or consulting on tribal sports betting operations must register as major sports betting vendors.
- If a sports betting tribe enters into an agreement with a contracting party for management or consulting related to sports betting, the contracting party shall be entitled to no more than 40% of net revenues from such agreement, which cannot be for more than seven years.
- In-person registration must occur for an online sports betting account to be opened.
- The legal sports betting age would be 21 or over.
- Professional and college athletic events would be eligible for bets. High school or lower-level athletic events would be ineligible.
- Sports betting tribes would need to contribute 15% of adjusted sports wagering gross gaming revenue to the tribal sports wagering revenue sharing trust fund, and contribute 10% of adjusted sports wagering GGR to the CA Homeless and Mental Health Fund.