California Tribes Pull Back Mobile Sports Betting Proposal, Plan to Focus on “Killing” Commercial Initiative

At the beginning of the year, there was the possibility for up to four sports betting initiatives on the 2022 California ballot. However, on Monday, the three Native American tribes backing a mobile wagering proposal announced they would be turning their efforts to 2024 and focusing on killing the commercial sportsbooks’ new initiative for the 2022 ballot. The tribes will reportedly earmark $100 million to kill the commercial initiative.

Commercial Sportsbooks Gain Momentum

Last Tuesday, the “Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support” initiative announced it had gained 1.6 million signatures in an effort to get its initiative on the state’s ballot in November. Ballot initiatives require 997,139 verified voter signatures to be approved for the November 8 ballot.

The initiative is backed by $100 million from commercial national sportsbooks such as DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM. If the initiative is confirmed to have gained enough signatures, it will be included on the ballot on November 8. Any potential measures have until June 25 to qualify.

Tribal Opposition Following Pull Back on Proposal

Rob Stutzman, a public affairs representative for the tribal initiative, said in an email to Sports Handle that “our strategists have recommended that there is a better path for victory in 2024.” Stutzman also specified the tribes’ plan to “gather signatures until July and then submit them to ensure a tribal-operated mobile sports betting measure with a far better revenue-sharing deal for California is on the 2024 ballot.”

The tribal mobile proposal was the second of two this year in the signature-gathering process before pulling back as a group of California card rooms had its proposal that failed to qualify. The card rooms have joined several other groups such as the NAACP, Asian Americans for Good Government, and other unions and faith-based groups in opposition to the “Californians for Solutions” initiative.

Conflicting Research from Opposing Sides

In April, Franklin, Maslin, Maullin, Metz, & Associates (FM3) published research that showed 53% of 1,094 California voters were in opposition to the “corporate online sports betting initiative” based on its title and summary. That’s an increase from 48% when the company did a similar survey in November.

However, those results were starkly different from a poll run by David Binder Research and commissioned by the “Californians for Solutions” initiative. That poll showed that 59% of Californians support the corporate measure and only 28% are opposed.

Uphill Battle for Tribes

Tribal leaders at the annual Indian Gaming Association convention said they’d rather see their retail-only initiative fail than allow “out-of-state operators” to gain control of online sports betting in the state. With their all-in approach towards shutting down the commercial initiative comes the problem of the deep pockets of the commercial operators – the initiative has promised at least another $100 million to lobby voters and the $100 million to collect signatures.

The push for control over sports betting in California will continue to be fascinating as it will be the most lucrative market in the country when the state finally launches. It appears to be a matter of when rather than if at this point. The tribes are pushing for a cautious approach while the industry is pushing for a faster launch. The prospect of billions in revenue will be compelling for voters and legislators as we get closer to the November ballot.

For more information, please visit our California sports betting page, where we have the latest news and information on the state’s legalization process.