Backers pull the plug

California sports betting initiative deferred amidst tribal opposition

Reading time 1:46 min

The push for legalized sports betting in California has hit a roadblock as the backers behind the initiative decided to halt their campaign.

This decision comes on the heels of insufficient support from the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) and various tribes across the state, effectively putting the prospect of sports betting on hold until the next legislative session.

Californians may have to wait another two years for legislation to be considered, due to state legislative sessions being held every two years. Kasey Thompson, spokesperson for the initiative, explained the decision to pull the initiative, citing the unintended division caused within the tribes.

Thompson stated: “This initiative was supposed to be for the tribes but is only causing division. That was never my intent. I see now the needed unity is not coming, and so I’m standing good to my word and not moving forward. I’m pulling it in full.”

This setback follows the rejection of two ballot measures, Proposition 26 and Proposition 27, in 2022, which also aimed to authorize sports betting in the state. The failure of these measures during midterms led to a temporary pause in the push for wagering legislation until 2024.

Anticipating the current legislative session, Thompson and Reeve Collins, his partner, advocated for an online sports betting provision. However, their proposal faced strong opposition from CNIGA, which publicly expressed disapproval of sports betting initiatives. Last month, CNIGA issued a statement formally opposing these initiatives.

Despite an amendment seeking to relocate tax funding for homelessness initiatives to both gaming and non-gaming state tribes, CNIGA's 52 tribes remained steadfast in their opposition.

James Siva, Chairman of CNIGA, commented on the withdrawal of the initiatives, stating: “We are pleased that in the face of widespread tribal opposition, the backers of two initiatives have kept their word and withdrawn what we could only regard as a cynical attempt to legalize sports wagering and online betting in California."

Let this failure also be a warning to others that seek to dubiously enter the California gaming market. Using tribes for your own gain will get you nowhere.”

The potential for sports betting in California has been a contentious issue, with the industry estimated to generate significant tax revenue annually from a legal market. The industry could produce “tens of millions” of dollars, according to a fiscal impact report from the California Attorney General’s office.

In November last year, FM3 Research conducted a poll for a committee of California tribal gaming nations that showed state voters remain apprehensive about sports betting legalization.

Among the 837 respondents, only 30% offered some kind of support for legalizing online sports betting. Likely voters polled a year ago gave the measure just 28% support.

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