California Tribes Hit Airwaves To Fight Online Sports Betting Initiative

Written By Brad Allen on March 21, 2022
California sports betting

The battle for California sports betting has reached the airwaves.

Three California tribes on Thursday launched a TV ad campaign against an operator-backed online sports betting initiative in the state.

The 30-second ad spot picks out FanDuel and DraftKings specifically as out-of-state companies trying to “break the promise” of tribal sovereignty over CA sports betting.

That initiative remains in the signature-gathering phase ahead of a June deadline to qualify for the ballot. The tribal-backed measure that would limit sports betting to retail sportsbooks already qualified for the 2022 election.

Who is fighting against FanDuel, DraftKings?

The ad is funded by Californians for Tribal Sovereignty and Safe Gaming. The group was established in February and backed by:

  • The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians
  • The Rincon Band of Luisueño Indians
  • Wilton Rancheria

The San Manuel tribe owns and operates the Yaamava’ Resort & Casino at San Manuel outside Los Angeles. The tribe also bought the Palms Casino in Las Vegas for $650 million in 2021.

What’s in the ad?

The spot will also go out across digital channels. It says:

“When voters granted our sovereign nations exclusive gaming rights, it advanced self-sufficiency and created thousands of good jobs,” the advert states.

“But now, out of state corporations are coming to California. Their online sports betting initiative would break the promise between us. It’s bad for Tribes and all Californians.”

Too big to fail?

The tribal group has pledged to spend $100 million on defeating the operator-backed initiative. That is the same amount the US sportsbooks pledged to spend themselves.

Tribal initiative spokesman Roger Salazar said no $100 million ‘Vote No’ campaign had ever failed in CA.

“Californians will be seeing this multimillion-dollar ad buy from San Francisco and Sacramento down to Los Angeles and San Diego and out to Palm Springs,” Salazar said.

“They will be seeing the ad on their favorite news stations, whether they watch CNN, Fox News or MSNBC, and on their favorite networks. Our coalition to protect tribal sovereignty has the resources to share the facts about this flawed measure with every single Californian.”

Online California sports betting initiative on track

DraftKings CEO Jason Robins said earlier this month the operator initiative ​was “doing great against its target.” The initiative needs just under one million signatures to make the ballot in November.

“We’ve been ahead of our weekly goals,” Robins said. “So we feel like we’re going to get there and we’re very excited about the prospect of hopefully being on the ballot this fall.”

A recent poll from UC Berkeley found plenty of floating voters on the CA sports betting issue.

Competing pushes for California sports betting

There are two other CA sports betting initiatives trying to make the ballot in November.

One initiative comes from cardroom operators but loops in multiple businesses for mobile or retail betting licenses. Tribal casinos, horse racing tracks and pro teams could join cardrooms in holding those licenses.

Another initiative, backed by the tribes, aims to authorize only retail betting.

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Brad Allen

Brad has been covering the online gambling industry in Europe and the US for more than four years, most recently as the news editor at EGR Global.

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