California's North Bay tribes are funding and pushing for a state initiative to legalize sports betting at casinos on native lands, which places them in a dispute against cardrooms and online gambling companies in the state.
Last month, the measure qualified for the November 2022 ballot. If approved, it would restrict sports betting to tribal casinos, as well as the state’s four licensed horse tracks. It would also allow roulette and dice games, including craps, at tribal casinos. The measure would allow gamblers to place bets on professional, college and amateur sports, except high school sports and California-based college teams.
The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, which owns the Bay Area’s largest casino just outside Rohnert Park, Graton Resort & Casino, has over the past year-and-a-half contributed over $1.7 million to the campaign backing the measure, making it the effort’s third largest donor, according to campaign finance records, The Press Democrat reports. California tribes have poured in over $11.5 million in total.
The Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians, owner of the River Rock Casino near Geyserville, also supports the measure, according to casino Chief Executive Sue Ascanio. The tribe has not contributed money to the campaign, but may do so in the future, Ascanio said.
Tribes argue that they should have majority control over sports betting in the state since they are best equipped to manage the potentially lucrative industry as it emerges from the shadows. “Because we are so highly regulated and have doing it for so long, it really is part of our world,” Ascanio said. “...The bottom line is this already happening illegally and it’s not benefiting the state.”
The initiative would place a 10% tax on sports wagering gaming revenues at horse tracks, while tribal casinos would pay a portion of their revenue to at least cover regulatory costs. The state estimates it could yield tens of millions in annual revenue under the ballot measure.
California cardrooms, which have long been at odds with the tribes, are lining up against the measure, with seven operators pouring in $7 million. “This initiative will not legalize sports wagering in California," Kyle Kirkland, president of the California Gaming Association, said in a statement. ”Instead, it expands the tribal casino operators' untaxed monopoly on gaming without benefit to Californians and prioritizes tribal casino operators' wealth over the needs of California communities..."