Both California sports betting initiatives are going to be defeated soundly, keeping wagering unregulated and illegal in the Golden State.
As expected, tribal-backed Proposition 26 and sportsbook-backed Prop 27 both will fail to gain enough votes for passage in Tuesday’s election. NBC News called the races early Tuesday evening on the West Coast.
Prop 27, which would have legalized online CA sports betting, has just 16% of the vote with about a third of precincts reporting. Meanwhile, Prop 26, which would have opened up retail CA sports betting on tribal lands and significantly expanding casino gaming, has just less than 30% support.
“We thank the voters of California for overwhelming rejecting Prop 27,” Agua Caliente tribal chairman Reid Milanovich told LSR. “The defeat of 27 is not just good for my tribe or tribes in general, but for the state of California as a whole. So we would like to thank the voters for that.”
No on Prop 27 statement
Dan Little, chief intergovernmental affairs officer the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, put out a statement on behalf of No on 27:
“California Tribes are thankful that voters have defeated Prop. 27 and affirmed the mutually beneficial relationship enjoyed by Tribes with the State of California. The sovereign right of Tribes to exclusively operate casino-style gaming in California, as originally confirmed by the State’s voters over two decades ago, has been preserved from the incursion of out-of-state corporations.
Those corporations should be aware that California Tribes will always protect their people and their sovereignty, as well as work with the people of California to improve our collective well-being, now and into the future.”
Yes on Prop 27 statement
Yes on 27 spokesperson Nathan Click issued the following statement after the election results came out:
“Our coalition knew that passing Prop 27 would be an uphill climb, and we remain committed to California. This campaign has underscored our resolve to see California follow more than half the country in legalizing safe and responsible online sports betting. …
Californians deserve the benefits of a safe, responsible, regulated, and taxed online sports betting market, and we are resolved to bringing it to fruition here.”
Tough path to legal California sports betting
A pathway to regulating and legalizing California sports betting is difficult to envision at the moment, especially given the animosity between tribes and commercial operators.
A legislative pathway appears unlikely given past failures, while another trip to the ballot would need significant reimagining.
The tribes, led by San Manuel and Pechanga, view Prop 27’s failure as a significant victory. It maintains the status quo, while keeping online operators like FanDuel Sportsbook and DraftKings Sportsbook at bay. Tribes ultimately do not want commercial operators to have access to CA’s robust online casino market.
Why Prop 27 failed
The sides spent more than $400 million in a heated Prop 27 advertising campaign battle. It left voters to sort through an influx of ads and a mass of misinformation.
“I don’t think anybody believes either side,” an industry insider told LSR . “You’re not going to solve homelessness, and this isn’t really about protecting tribal sovereignty.”
Prop 27 performed poorly in multiple independent polls, and Yes on 27 pulled its TV ads in major CA markets last month as a result. That left FanDuel CEO Amy Howe and DraftKings CEO Jason Robins to all but concede on 2022, and turn their attention to 2024 and beyond.
Tribes control future of California sports betting
There was also no executive support for Prop 27. Gov. Gavin Newsom came out against the legalization of online sports betting in late October, though at that point the battle was already lost anyway.
Any chance for online sports betting passage in California clearly hinges on the tribes, who want to be in the driver’s seat.
Mark Macarro, Tribal Chairman of the Pechanga Band of Indians, said in a statement:
“It’s clear voters don’t want a massive expansion of online sports betting, and they trust Indian tribes when it comes to responsible gaming. As tribes, we will analyze these results, and collectively have discussions about what the future of sports wagering might look like in California.”
A tribal-led online sports betting initiative could be the way to go for California, assuming no legislative solution in 2023. For now, CA bettors are left with options like going to neighboring states, wagering with a bookie, or using an unregulated offshore site.