Tribes remain unsupportive of proposals to legalize California sports betting, after meeting with industry stakeholders, a key tribal representative said Wednesday.
The California Nations Indian Gaming Association last week voted 18-0, with five abstentions, against two California sports betting proposals, according to Chairman James Siva.
The proposals would allow the state’s tribes to offer in-person and online betting by 2025 at the earliest. They face the same roadblocks that prevented a similar push backed by DraftKings and FanDuel in 2022.
‘Too good to be true’: tribal chair
Appearing on The New Normal podcast, hosted by Victor Rocha of pechanga.net, Siva recounted the meeting:
“We went into that meeting, eyes wide open, knowing exactly the kinds of people we were going to be speaking with. Mostly, they did all the talking.
It was very much what we expected, ‘we’re gonna come in and do this for you and no one else can do this and then we’re just gonna walk away’…. if It sounds too good to be true, it most likely actually is.”
Some tribes abstained because they were unfamiliar with the proposals, he added.
California sports betting backers seek tribal input
The proposals come from Reeve Collins and Kasey Thompson, cofounders of Pala Interactive, which was sold to Boyd Gaming in 2022.
Siva plays down tribal support for California sports betting
Siva threw cold water on that notion.
“They keep saying that tribes have sent amendments in, but I haven’t seen any tribe say they’ve sent an amendment in or stand up and say yes we support this,” Siva said.
He added that 21 of CNIGA’s 52 member tribes signed a letter in opposition to the proposals.
Gray-market approach questioned
The pitch to tribes centered on eliminating California’s illegal sports betting market, Siva said.
“They keep talking about we’re going to be able to eliminate all this gray market in sports betting, all the illegal operations in California, but they never actually say how they’re going to do it,” Siva said. “Because the only way they’re going to be able to do it is with these backroom deals to buy up all these illegal operators.”
Siva believes CNIGA would be used to “cleanse” illegal websites in the state before bringing them in as “clean players,” referencing markets like Ontario, where gray-market operators were amnestied. He called it a “potential assault and threat to our tribal sovereignty.”
Not enough time, Siva says
Siva described the backers’ biggest mistake as not giving tribes enough time to come together and evaluate the initatives.
“They have left tribes with as little time a possible to try to start this process, to get unity to have discussions, they led us to as little time as possible,” he said, noting the dificulty it can take to get tribes to unite on a gaming issue.
The proposals have a public comment period that runs through Nov. 27, before the Dec. 5 amendment deadline. The California Secretary of State would then need to receive them before the signature-gathering process, which would likely start early next year, according to Rocha.