Tribal Gaming Association Letter Presses California Sports Betting Proponents

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California sports betting

The California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) sent a letter to the proponents of the California sports betting initiatives last week, urging them to drop their proposal immediately. 

The CNIGA letter opposing the proposed California sports betting initiatives was addressed to ballot measure proponents Kasey Thompson, Reeve Collins and Ryan Tyler Walz

CNIGA said in a statement that its 52 members voted unanimously to oppose the initiatives. 

California sports betting push in limbo?

Thompson previously told LSR he would not put California sports betting on the ballot “without majority tribal support.” 

Otherwise, he plans to go ahead with a $25 million signature gathering effort.

LSR reached out to Thompson for comment on the letter but did not yet receive an answer.

Chair: measures ‘disingenuous’ in nature

CNIGA chairman James Siva called the initiatives “disingenuous” in nature.  

“The disingenuous nature of these initiatives should be a red flag to every tribal government as well as every voter in California,” Siva said in a statement. “The proponent of the measures are attempting to divide and conquer tribes by pushing an initiative that attempts to legitimize illicit off-shore operators and putting our governments at risk.”

“The opposition coming from Indian Country is loud and it is clear. Tribes will not be distracted by outside influences making empty promises. Indian Country will stand firm in protecting our sovereign rights and integrity. We call on the proponents to do the honorable thing and withdraw these flawed initiatives.”

What California sports betting letter said

The letter to Thompson, Collins and Walz closes as follows: 

“We are hereby notifying you of the strong opposition from more than half of California tribal nations to these offensive proposals that masquerade as tribal initiatives. Again, we expect you will keep your word and urge you to abandon these proposals without delay.”

It continues: 

“Your initiatives are a cynical and deceptive attempt to hijack — for your personal gain — the goodwill tribes have earned and maintained for decades with the people of California. … We will not allow imposters to exploit our good names. An aggressive campaign will be waged against these reckless initiatives — like in 2022 which resulted in an 82% NO vote — that harm potential legitimate efforts to authorize sports wagering responsibly in California.”

Tribes unmoved by amendments

The state attorney general’s office received amendments to the proposed CA sports betting initiatives earlier this month.

Those amendments did not convince the tribes, however.

“The strategy is to drive a wedge between the gaming & non-gaming tribes,” Victor Rocha, conference chair of the Indian Gaming Association and member of the Pechanga Band of Indianstweeted. “At the end of the day, it’s still a bunch of tech bros promising to lead Native Americans to the promise land. It will fail like before. Unity is our strength.”