Can FanDuel Make Amends With Tribes Toward California Sports Betting?

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FanDuel Sportsbook continues to try to make peace with key Golden State gaming tribes that are expected to play a significant role in determining if and when California sports betting becomes legal.

Two years after their heated Proposition 27 battle in 2022 that fractured relations, key members of both sides sat at the same table on Wednesday.

FanDuel Sportsbook was one of the sponsors of the Western Indian Gaming Conference. Its president, Christian Genetski, took part in a tribal panel. 

How FanDuel president handled panel

According to PlayUSA, California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) chairman James Siva kicked off the panel by referring to the FanDuel executive as “the elephant in the room.” 

“I know as soon as it was announced that FanDuel was going to be on the panel here and was a sponsor of the conference, it raised some red flags,” Genetski said. “While I hammered them everywhere I could when we were in the middle of those initiative fights, I always left that last piece that there will be some relationship moving forward. But the way that is decided and dictated and ultimately done will be by tribes.”

Fractured relationship on the mend

The panel occurred less than one year after Indian Gaming Conference (IGA) chairman Victor Rocha said both FanDuel and DraftKings Sportsbook declined an invitation to sit on a similar panel discussion.

A FanDuel spokesperson cited a scheduling conflict at the time.

“I think this is a hard spot for them after getting their ass beat and probably wouldn’t be a very comfortable experience for them being in front of the tribes and admitting you’re wrong,” Rocha said then. 

FanDuel: 2022 effort ‘misguided’

This time, the ribbing sounded more good-natured, although the pathway to legalization remains unclear. 

Prop 27 received just 18% of the vote. Meanwhile, the major California gaming tribes and sportsbook operators were on the same side in opposing a rogue 2024 effort led by proponents Reeve Collins and Kasey Thompson

“When I reflect on 2022, I think if I’m being a little charitable it was what I would describe as a well-intentioned but uniformed and misguided attempt. It was definitely a spectacular failure from our perspective, but that’s OK. It wasn’t the time and it wasn’t the right way, and we understand that. …

“I’m happy to sit here today and be the butt of some hopefully friendly jokes and have the opportunity to speak transparently about at least where FanDuel is on these issues,” Genetski said. 

FanDuel exec: ‘Nothing quite like California’

What is clear is that FanDuel wants to be in California. In late 2023, it began tribal outreach efforts and also hired a pair of experienced executives with tribal expertise. 

“There’s nothing quite like California,” FanDuel CCO Mike Raffensperger told The Street. “It’s the largest state economy. It’ll be a huge marketplace for us. We’re in active conversations with lawmakers, with tribal interests, with others where we understand there’s a constituency, I think, of partnership it’ll take to bring that state online. But confident that over the time horizon, that’ll happen.”

What FanDuel’s role could be

Still, tribes have made clear that any future legalization effort, and structure of sports betting, will run though them. 

Siva said previously FanDuel indicated its willingness to be a B2B operator. However, Genetski did not say whether FanDuel would ultimately accept that role, according to PlayUSA

“I think our perspective has been with these terms, hub and spoke, management services provider, it may look like that but let’s just start from the beginning and see what’s the best solution we can get to,” Genetski said. 

When will California see legal sports betting?

The next shot will be in 2026, though it may be later than that. 

“Will that happen by 2026? Well, it’s the first time it can happen. I can go on record that it’s not happening before that,” Genetski said. “But whether it’s 2026, 2028 or 2030, we’ll know when we know.”  

At the very least, things appear to be in a much better place, with more conversations to come. 

“It’s going to take us a long time to build anything remotely resembling trust, and we accept that and we appreciate it. If we can get to a place where we can start to move the ball forward on a construct that Indian country recognizes as a productive one, that’s when we’ll actually be some place,” Genetski said.