An effort to legalize California sports betting via the November ballot in 2024 has already come to an end.
Proponents for the proposed California sports betting initiatives, who met staunch opposition from the biggest gaming tribes in the state, officially called it quits on Monday.
Proponent Kasey Thompson explained to LSR why his group elected to withdraw its initiatives.
“My intent was to unite the tribes and not divide them,” Thompson told LSR. “I spent 10 years in Indian Country and thought we were bringing something innovative at no cost to the tribes. I can now see the support is not coming and I always promised not to move forward without it. I am a man of my word and will not create any more division.”
Big California sports betting opposition
Thompson was able to garner public support from a small faction of limited-gaming tribes.
However, the California Nation Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) remained steadfast in its opposition.
Membership of CNIGA includes the powerful Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.
Major commercial operators, gaming tribes in alignment
“We recently learned that the authors of two sports wagering initiatives in California are trying to find financial support for signature gathering from sports betting operators,” SBA spokesperson Nathan Click told LSR. “In the interest of clarity, and consistent with our previously stated opposition to these measures, we can commit that SBA won’t be funding or otherwise supporting either of these sports wagering initiatives.”
No signature effort for CA
Thompson previously said he would begin a $25 million campaign to gather signatures, with 1.2 million petitions being printed and sent out in early January.
However, that effort never happened. Regardless, Thompson was proud of his group’s effort.
“I think there were some great things that came out of this and the 25% to the RSTF (Revenue Sharing Trust Fund) Tribes I hope is a starting point for them in the future,” Thompson said. “I have nothing but respect for tribal country and am disappointed, but impressed how they united together and looks to have a path for 2026. Hopefully they now go into their all tribe meeting (Jan. 30) coming up more united than ever.”
Future for California sports betting
Several tribal figures have mentioned that the pathway to legalization in the Golden State must be tribe-led.
It is also significant that the major gaming tribes and operators were both on the same side, speaking out against the 2024 initiatives.
CNIGA chairman James Siva, however, believes California may not be able to legalize sports betting until 2028.
Could tribes push in-person sports betting before online?
Tribes, Siva added, may also elect to take an incremental approach, featuring in-person sports betting before online sports betting.
“The reality is you have to get the California voters to approve it, and if they’re not ready to approve any sports betting initiative, don’t put forth a bad one,” Siva said recently on an Indian Gaming Association (IGA) podcast with Victor Rocha. “It’s just going to make it so much more complicated, so much more expensive when tribes do come back and want to push something for sports betting.”