Howe extends an olive branch

FanDuel CEO pledges collaboration with California tribes for future sports betting endeavors

Reading time 2:18 min

FanDuel CEO Amy Howe said that the next effort to legalize sports betting in California will be under a unified approach with tribes. Her remarks were made during a panel discussion at the Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention in Anaheim, California, on Tuesday morning.

Acknowledging past missteps and the importance of tribal partnerships, Howe emphasized that any future endeavors in the state must be conducted "with and through" the 100-plus tribes that exist in California, reports Play USA.

Joined by James Siva, chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA), and Jacob Mejia, director of public affairs for Pechanga Development Corporation, Howe engaged in a frank discussion about the turbulent history between commercial operators like FanDuel and tribal entities, receiving credit from tribal stakeholders for the gesture to make amends with California tribes after a failed ballot campaign over sports betting.

The backdrop of their conversation was the aftermath of the 2022 ballot initiatives. Proposition 27, which aimed to legalize online sports betting but lacked tribal support, was resoundingly rejected by California voters. This failure, coupled with the tribes' opposition, underscored the need for a new approach.

Howe admitted that previous efforts were "well-intended but misguided and ill-informed," recognizing the sovereignty of tribes and the importance of exclusivity in their gaming operations. Her acknowledgment of past errors was symbolized by the display of a notebook belonging to Frank Sizemore, a former San Manuel Band of Mission Indians executive now working with FanDuel, adorned with a prominent "NO ON 27" sticker.

FanDuel's recent hiring of tribal industry experts like Sizemore, Rikki Tanenbaum (also a former San Manuel executive), and Sequoyah Simermeyer (former National Indian Gaming Commission Chairman) demonstrates a commitment to understanding and respecting tribal perspectives, said Howe.

Siva reiterated that tribes will continue to be the primary operators in California's gaming landscape, emphasizing the need for a unified approach to future initiatives. While expansion is anticipated, Siva stressed the importance of tribes leading the way.

“Expansion of gaming is going to happen. It’s a matter of when, not if. But when that does happen, tribes are going to remain in control. We will partner with companies, we will utilize products. But tribes are the operators in California, period. That’s it," he said, as per Play USA.

Looking ahead, Howe emphasized the necessity of broad tribal consensus for any future ballot measures, recognizing that success hinges on tribal cooperation. She highlighted the potential revenue loss to black market operators and emphasized the need for legal, regulated sports betting that benefits all stakeholders.

"I think if we can work together and figure out a structure that goes through the tribes but also takes full advantage of what we’ve built over not just six years of being an operator of online sports betting in the US but we’re also backed by the largest global gaming company, there’s something really powerful that we can do together," she said.

Siva's closing message to commercial operators was clear: “I would say be patient. Listen to the tribes. We know where we want to go. We’re making new relationships moving forward, but we don’t forget. We remember. We know what we’re doing. This is our industry. Get out of our way and we’ll show you the path.”

The panel's tone reflected a shift in approach by FanDuel and other commercial operators, signaling a willingness to collaborate with tribes rather than confront them. With sports betting's potential legalization in California looming, Howe's remarks underscored the importance of tribal partnerships for future success in the state's gaming market.

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