The California sports betting ballot fight has only been official for a couple of days and the political attacks have already begun in earnest.
On Monday evening, the state confirmed the operator-backed online CA sports betting measure would be on the ballot in November.
By Tuesday, CA tribes backing a rival retail-based measure released a new video ad targeting DraftKings CEO Jason Robins. The ad discloses major funding from:
- San Manuel Band of Mission Indians
- Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians
- Pala Casino Spa Resort
What is in new CA sports betting ad?
The ad criticized Robins’s response to a question at a Goldman Sachs investor conference last month. The questioner asked: “What states are you still looking at over the next 18 to 24 months?”
Robins mentioned the California ballot initiative, saying:
“That’s pretty exciting. And I think if we’re able to pass in November, we could potentially be looking at a 2023 launch, hopefully ahead of NFL for California. Really great bill too. The tax rate, everything is set in a very reasonable way because you can actually write the whole piece of legislation on the ballot, which is nice.”
So far so reasonable then, especially in a pitch to investors. However, the ad took a different view.
The script read: “They call their California sports betting initiative ‘solutions for homelessness.’
“But DraftKings’ CEO recently went a little off-script, bragging to investors that the initiative has a tax rate set by the industry. Because, he chortled, ‘you can actually write the whole piece of legislation on the ballot, which is nice.’
Titling their measure about homelessness rather than online sports betting could be seen as inviting this line of attack.
That said, 85% of sports betting tax revenue will go toward the homelessness issue. The remaining 15% will go to CA tribes not involved in the industry.
It is also worth noting tribes wrote the language of their retail-only betting initiative too – the same practice for which they criticized sportsbooks in the ad.
“Californians aren’t going to be fooled by these false attacks,” Nathan Click, spokesperson for the operator measure, told LSR. “California’s nonpartisan budget analyst office estimated that our initiative would raise hundreds of millions in dollars each year for homelessness and mental health and addiction treatment – many times more revenue for the state than any other proposed or qualified sports betting initiative.”
First shot in CA sports betting battle
Of course, the ad is just the start of the PR effort over the coming five months. Both sides have pledged to spend at least $100 million on the campaign.
Various tribes have also committed to blocking the operator-backed measure. That is because California is a major prize.
The state could potentially generate $3 billion in annual revenues, BetMGM said earlier this year.
Why are CA tribes against online sports betting?
- Tribes argue online betting would “break the promise” of tribal sovereignty over CA sports betting. Profits would go to out-of-state companies rather than CA tribes.
- Tribes have warned about the responsible gambling risks of “turning every phone, laptop and tablet into a gambling device.”
- Some tribes would benefit disproportionately from partnering with big operators like FanDuel, while many would be left with smaller partners or none at all.
- Online sports betting could ultimately lead to online casino which tribes fear might cannibalize tribal gaming.