Powerful Tribal Leader Says California Voters Don’t Want Online Sports Betting

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California sports betting polls

A leader of one of the most powerful tribes in California claims voters in the Golden State simply don’t want to legalize online CA sports betting via Prop 27.

Just 27% of CA voters supported Proposition 27, which would legalize online sports betting, according to recent independent polling data by UC-Berkeley and the LA Times. 

Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians chairman Mark Macarro says internal tribal polling shows 62% of voters are against California online sports betting. 

“They don’t want mobile anything. They just don’t. As long as that is the case, it doesn’t matter how much money (operators) throw around,” Macarro told LSR and PlayCA last week at the G2E Conference in Las Vegas. 

“If you work for these companies, the people who work for your company are … wasting a lot of money. Based on some poor research.” 

Tribes: Sports betting operators will lose big

It’s worth noting that a pair of coalitions, with tribal gaming investment, poured in over $100 million each in opposition of Prop 27, with hopes of swaying voters in their direction. 

The tribes view Prop 27 failing as a victory. It keeps the status quo and keeps online sports betting operators like FanDuel and DraftKings at bay. 

FanDuel CEO Amy Howe and DraftKings CEO Jason Robins last week at G2E all but conceded on their quest to get legal online sports betting this year via Prop 27. Howe and Robins both expressed hope about trying to get something done in 2024. 

“If it stays on track, FanDuel and DraftKings are going to lose and lose big,” Macarro said. “So one of the takeaways is there really, truly is nothing in there for tribes. I think they promised the world somehow to three tribes and they did commercials and that confused the landscape. 

“But it would have been one of the most destabilizing things to Indian gaming certainly in California ever. So thankfully this is not going to happen in this cycle. It’s going to repeat in two years when DraftKings and FanDuel make another attempt at winning over the voters. In between, I think they’re going to try something in the state legislature.” 

Why sportsbooks need to stay out of CA

Macarro thinks there’s little place for sportsbooks at the bargaining table going forward. 

“I don’t think that’s part of the strategy that we need to engage them,” Macarro said. “Tribes need to be the ones to decide what the framework for legalization looks like. I suppose there can be others in the car, but if the tribes aren’t in the driver’s seat, we’re going to be taken for a ride.

“Inviting the DraftKings, the FanDuels, etc., as subservient partners — subservience isn’t the issue. It’s that they would be sitting essentially in parity with tribes in figuring out legalization. That’s not our goal, how do we bring these folks in so that we can legalize together? No.”

Tribes: CA voters control pathway to 2024

Asked how something gets done with legal California online sports betting in 2024, Macarro responded: “The pathway I guess is changing the hearts and minds of voters in the state of California in a sincere way.” 

Pechanga would prefer an incremental approach which legalizes retail sports betting, then online. Macarro said they polled doing a tribal-backed online initiative. “It polls better than what DraftKings and FanDuel were doing but not enough to put it over the hump,” he said. 

Tribal sports betting conversations a must

Trying to get dozens of tribes with conflicting interests on the same page is a monumental, if not improbable, undertaking. Still, conversations must be had. 

“Tribes, if they haven’t had those conversations on how to move forward on (online) gaming, they need to,” Macarro said. “And then we need to have a group discussion to coalesce around something we think that works. 

“And that’s the problem for not having a brick-and-mortar legalized sports betting piece. Sports betting right now is in position to be the game that legalizes the framework for mobile gaming. 

“After that, what’s next? Is the entire casino floor on my phone? I think that not enough of us are looking at that issue and asking that question, what are the impacts on our brick-and-mortar operations. Will customers still come? What works in New Jersey, does it work for tribes in California? I don’t know.

“If tribes don’t align, I don’t know if anything happens.”