Two California sports betting initiatives were filed with the attorney general’s office late last week with the goal of making sports betting an issue on the November 2024 ballot.
Ryan Tyler Walz and Reeve Collins filed the Tribal Gaming Protection Act (23-0031) and the Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act (23-0030), effectively seeking tribal exclusivity over an online and retail sports betting market in California.
Details of Sports Betting Initiatives
The Tribal Gaming Protection Act was penned to “authorize federally recognized Indian tribes, or an entity wholly-owned by federally recognized Indian tribes, to operate in-person or online sports wagering,” per the initiative’s language.
It furthermore states, “The Legislature shall not authorize in-person or online sports wagering in California by any person or entity other than a federally recognized Indian tribe, as provided herein.”
Meanwhile, the Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act lays out all the regulations and the proposed structure for the sports betting market.
“The purpose of the Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act is to regulate online and in-person sports wagering in California to generate much-needed funding for governmental services to tribal communities to address continuing social/economic problems facing Native Americans and other Californians, such as homelessness and mental illness,” according to the initiative.
It would also amend Article IV, Section 19 of the California constitution to enforce that tribes place 15% of their gross gaming revenue into the Tribal Sports Wagering Revenue Sharing Trust Fund and another 10% into the California Homelessness and Mental Health Fund.
Other notable regulations: tribes can contract with commercial sportsbooks as vendors, in-person registration is required, all sports betting sites are to be branded under the tribe’s federally recognized name, and you must be 21 or older to participate.
Tribes “Deeply Disappointed” By Filings
Almost immediately, the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) released a response:
“The California Nations Indian Gaming Association is deeply disappointed that the sponsors of the two recently filed initiatives did not first reach out to the State’s largest tribal gaming association for consultation and input. Instead, CNIGA and our member tribes were alerted to their existence when they were filed with the Attorney General today.
“Decisions driving the future of tribal governments should be made by tribal governments. While the sponsors of these initiatives may believe they know what is best for tribes, we encourage them to engage with Indian Country and ask, rather than dictate.”
Filers Seeking “Full Support” From California Tribes
Collins is the CEO and co-founder of Pala Interactive, an online gaming platform created by the Pala Band of Mission Indians. The platform was sold to Boyd Gaming in 2022. Following the filings, another Pala Interactive co-founder, Kasey Thompson, penned a letter to tribal leaders, according to PlayUSA.
“We have met with a number of California tribes, and we would like to meet with you and all other tribes over the next 30 days so that we can ensure that our initiative represents your interests and reflects your input,” he wrote. “We do not plan to proceed unless we have the full support of the California tribes.”
Interestingly, he referenced the sports betting drama unfolding in Florida in his letter. “The impact of the recent rulings in the Florida Seminole case have yet to be felt in California but could be significant. The time to submit a sports wagering proposal in California is now.”
Tight Time Frame To Get Initiatives Approved
While both Prop 26 and Prop 27 failed miserably on the November ballot last year, supporters are convinced this could be the year. However, these initiatives were submitted relatively late for the November 2024 ballot election.
After filing the initiative with the attorney general, a petitioner must wait 65 days to begin collecting signatures. To appear on next year’s November ballot, these initiatives must collect and submit 874,641 signatures by the end of April. This gives them roughly four months to organize this. The state typically suggests that signature-collecting be conducted over six months.