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Tribes to Control Sports Betting in California

May 6, 2022

In the eyes of U.S. sports betting operators, California is the crowned jewel of the remaining states that have yet to pass any sports betting legislation. Unfortunately for the operators, it's known that the California sports betting mountain is going to be a hard one to climb. This is clear because numerous sports betting bills and petitions have already come and gone. All of that might be about to change.

Sports Betting Petition Might Be Good To Go in California

Under the sponsorship of major U.S. sports bettors like BetMGM, DraftKings, and FanDuel, there is reason to believe that a sports betting petition has successfully made its way through California.

At this time, a group called California Solutions to Homelessness & Mental Health Support Act has submitted a sports betting petition to California Secretary of State Sec. of State Shirley Weber. The group claims to have 1.6 million good and legal signatures in support of online sports betting for the state's residents. If the signatures hold up under the Secretary of State's scrutiny, a sports betting referendum would make it onto the California ballot scheduled for voting in November of this year.

As a reminder, voting referendums in California only require a simple majority for passage. If this referendum were to pass, the California state legislature would have a framework around which they could create sports betting regulations.

Here is what's in the petition. The petition designates that all California sports betting would need to be done online and or through mobile apps. The petition further authorizes that there would be up to 12 online sports betting licenses issued through designated contracts with federally recognized Indian tribes.

As the name of the proposed bill states, sports betting tax revenue would be allocated to cities, counties, and states to fund programs for mental health care and unhoused people. The same funding model would be used to distribute license fees, which would be set at $10 million for the initial license to cover the first five years and a five-year renewal fee of $1 million.

California Indian Tribes Not Onboard With This Petition

When news broke that the aforementioned petition had enough signatures to make it onto the November 2022 ballot, the Tribal community's Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming voiced its opposition to the petition. The basis for the opposition they claim is tied to concerns over the risks of underage and problem gambling.

The reality might well be something very different. It turns out that the California Tribal community already has its own sports betting referendum approved for the November 2022 ballot. The name of the referendum is the "Tribal Sports Wagering Act." Under the language of the petition, sports betting would be legalized in California but restricted to retail sports betting that would be controlled by Federal Indian Tribes most likely through their retail casinos.

Here's the bottom. California's Tribal community has no intention of letting go of its control over the state's gambling industry. They intend to fight to the end until they hold the exclusive rights to control casino and sports gambling through their retail gambling empire.


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