California Sports Betting Backer Sees Support From Small Group Of Tribes

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California sports betting

Proponents of the proposed California sports betting initiatives are receiving public support from a small faction of revenue-sharing tribes. 

However, proponent Kasey Thompson told LSR he believes it will grow into a much larger consortium. 

Representatives from the Cahuilla Band of IndiansKaruk TribeBlue Lake Rancheria and Chicken Ranch Rancheria told PlayUSA that the proposed California sports betting initiatives would provide a meaningful revenue stream to improve the standard of living for rural tribes. 

“I think that this consortium is a fantastic idea,” Thompson told LSR on Wednesday. “For the 72 rev-share tribes to have one singular voice.” 

Trust fund for California sports betting

Under the current structure, 72 tribes receive $1.1 million annually from the Revenue Sharing Trust Fund (RSTF.

However, under the amended initiative proposal, online sports betting would be taxed at 25%, potentially allowing RSTF tribes to obtain up to $15 million per year.

“I think that this has taken a lot of time and preparation, and they wouldn’t be coming out now unless they thought that they would have the full support of the 72,” Thompson said. “I think that they’ll get them because a $15 million to $1 million difference of revenue is staggering.” 

Why tribes want initiatives to pass

Outgoing Cahuilla chairman Daniel Salgado explained why the initiatives would benefit the rev-share tribes in the Golden State. 

“I support the initiative in its amended form and I’m going to look to get other tribes in California, and as many Californians as possible, to support it,” Salgado told PlayUSA. “Californians need to know that two-thirds of California tribes are struggling. We’re not the Indians they see on billboards. We’re out in the trees, we’re out in the hills, we’re out in the desert, we’re out in the rural areas that aren’t commonly visited and we’re out there trying to survive. This initiative finally gives us a meaningful revenue stream to not only survive but thrive.”

Thompson added: “Every point those tribal people just said resonates true with all 72. Why would they not be for it?” 

Next for California sports betting plan

Thompson plans to go through on a $25 million signature gathering effort. However, he said he will not put California sports betting on the ballot without “majority tribal support.” There are 110 tribes in the Golden State. 

“You have to remember the last time the out-of-state operators had the worst tribal bill in history. And literally stole from the tribes and took all the money out of states,” Thompson said. “Then I took the best tribal bill ever, and made it even better for the tribes. Over 70 (tribes) were in support last time. I’ve removed all the language they didn’t like, and then they get craps and roulette for the gaming tribes.” 

CNIGA continues to oppose initiatives

However, not all tribes certainly do not agree. 

The California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) has repeatedly opposed the initiatives. The group urged the proponents to drop their proposal in a letter sent last week. 

CNIGA said its 52 members voted unanimously in opposition. 

Siva: Initiatives are ‘disingenuous’ in nature

CNIGA chairman James Siva again spoke out against the initiatives in a statement.

“The disingenuous nature of these initiatives should be a red flag to every tribal government as well as every voter in California,” Siva said. “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 letter also reads: “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.”

Rocha: Initiatives built to ‘drive wedge’

Victor Rocha, conference chair of the Indian Gaming Association (IGA) and member of the Pechanga Band of Indians, previously tweeted about the proponents’ plan. 

“The strategy is to drive a wedge between the gaming & non-gaming tribes,” Rocha tweeted. “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.”