Two California sports betting initiatives filed late last month are being prepared to enter the signature-gathering stage following the end of the 30-day public comment period. The public comment period brought irrevocable opposition from the state’s tribes, which may be enough to thwart the measures altogether.
Initial Filing Brought Immediate Backlash
The two initiatives – the Tribal Gaming Protection Act (23-0031) and the Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act (23-0030) – seek to give California tribes exclusive jurisdiction over the online and retail sports betting market in California.
Immediately following the Oct. 27 filing, the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) responded that they were “deeply disappointed” that the bill’s sponsors did not consult with the tribes first.
“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,” the statement read.
Tribes Formally Vote to Oppose Initiatives
On Nov. 16, the group doubled down on their denouncement in an additional statement:
“The entire effort surrounding these initiatives was handled abhorrently by the initiative sponsors,” said CNIGA Chairman James Siva. “It is hard not to be offended when listening to these individuals speak. This is another example of outside influences trying to divide and conquer Indian tribes. We will not let history repeat itself.”
Additionally, CNIGA representatives voted unanimously – by a vote of 18-0 – to oppose these initiatives.
Siva called the sponsors to “drop the initiatives as they have pledged to do if the tribes were to oppose them.”
Next Steps For CA Sports Betting
To appear on next year’s November ballot, these initiatives must collect and submit 874,641 signatures by the end of April.
Now that the public comment period is over, the California Attorney General – Rob Banta – must issue circulating titles and summaries. He has 35 additional days to do this. Once that has been finalized, the proponents can begin circulating for signatures. This marks the start date for signature collecting somewhere around the new year.
The state suggests that signature-collecting be conducted over six months to ensure success, and their recommended last day for filing a measure in the state this year was August 22, 2023.
The Oct. 27 filing date for these two initiatives has cost them two additional months of signature-collecting.
Grim Outlook For CA Sports Betting
Between the short turnaround time and the lack of tribal support, this will be an uphill battle for sports betting proponents in the state.
Especially considering how last year’s sports betting efforts in the state ended, the likelihood of these two measures making it on the November ballot is slim to none, let alone getting California voters to approve them.
Prop 26 (tribal sports betting initiative) and Prop 27 (commercial operator initiative) made it to the November ballot in California last year. Still, it failed to receive more than 30% of votes in favor of it, well below the necessary benchmark.