New initiative

California tribes seek exclusive in-person, online sports betting in new ballot measure

San Manuel Casino in California, operated by one of the main backers of the new ballot.
Reading time 2:03 min
The initiative, pushed by four tribal operators including the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, seeks to give tribes exclusive rights for operating both in-person and online sports betting. It is the fourth sports betting initiative aiming for California's 2022 ballot, and the second with tribal backing; these oppose efforts from card rooms and online gaming companies seeking to expand gambling.

Tribes in California are launching a new sports betting initiative, aiming for the 2022 ballot, called “The Age-Verified Tribal Online and In-Person Sports Wagering & Homelessness Solutions Act”. The proposal has been filed with the California Attorney General’s Office last Friday, the parties involved announced on Monday.

The initiative is backed by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, and Wilton Rancheria. “As the sports betting landscape has changed over the last two years, we believe that the initiative is in the best interests of all tribes and the citizens of California,” the tribes said in a statement.

The proposal seeks to protect “tribal gaming exclusivity” and promote tribal sovereignty. It further calls to provide benefits for limited gaming and non-gaming tribes, and to help address homelessness and mental health through a fund. It also claims to provide benefits for the state in “an IGRA-governed environment for sports wagering.”

This is the fourth sports betting initiative to angle for California’s 2022 ballot, and the second with backing from tribes. These tribal measures oppose efforts from card rooms and online gaming groups, both pushing their own proposals, currently in the signature-gathering process. The other tribal initiative seeks to legalize retail wagering at Indian casinos and four racetracks, and has already qualified for the November 2022 ballot.

The new tribal initiative seeks to give tribes exclusive rights for operating both in-person and online sports betting, and promises funds to solve California’s homeless struggles: it would send 85% of tax revenue per year toward helping people secure housing.

The proposal, if enacted, would require 10% of gross gaming revenue to be funneled to the state’s Homelessness and Mental Health Fund. Another 10% would be designated for the Tribal Sports Wagering Revenue Sharing Fund.

Taking into account the newest proposal calls for an expansion of gaming similar to the other tribal ballot measure, which has already been greenlighted, it is possible tribes might end up withdrawing one of the two should both get on the ballot.

The California sports wagering market seems to be positioned for tough competition, with all parties seeking control over the gambling industry. Commercial operators, including DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM, have already committed $100 million to their initiative-pushing efforts.

In order to get on the ballot, initiatives must be qualified by June 2022, and require 997,139 signatures. From the date the latest tribal proposal was filed, November 5, it could take up to two months for the attorney general’s office to approve the measure before tribes can start gathering signatures.

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