A couple of key developments regarding the prospects of California sports betting took place on Friday. As one proposed measure got the green light to begin gathering signatures, another proposal to legalize online wagering was submitted to Attorney General Rob Banta’s office for review.
That means when California voters go to the polls exactly one year from now – Nov. 8, 2022 – they may get to vote on as many as four measures that would legalize sports betting in some fashion.
The battle though has already begun even before three of the four potential measures have even been greenlighted by state officials. It means the winter and early spring will feature rival groups jockeying to secure more than 997,000 valid signatures.
Leaders of the state’s tribal gaming entities have already gone through the process once, getting a measure approved in May for next year’s ballot that would legalize sportsbooks at their casinos and the four state-licensed thoroughbred tracks. However, now some tribal leaders are back with another proposal that would give the Indian casino exclusivity over mobile sports betting in the state.
On Friday, chairmen from the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, the Wilton Rancheria, and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians filed the tribal mobile sports betting measure.
The proposed measure looks identical to the plan Rincon Band Chairman Bo Mazzetti, Graton Rancheria Chairman Greg Sarris, and Wilton Rancheria Chairman Jesus Tarango sent to other tribal chairs in late October. However, the submission to the state also included San Manuel Chairman Ken Ramirez’s signature, too.
Tribes Seek Mobile Exclusivity
Similar to online wagering proposals offered by cardroom supporters and national sports betting operators, the tribal plan does set aside money for homelessness and mental health initiatives. It also sets aside a portion of the proceeds for a revenue-sharing trust fund with other tribal entities.
But the proposal that was submitted to the attorney general’s office makes it clear that the tribes, who won the right from voters in 2000 to operate casinos, do not want other gaming interests calling the shots. They say the current system allows for other types of gaming, but they do not want others involved in Class III gaming.
“The future of gaming in California increasingly appears to be moving towards the use of online-based platforms and mobile devices with internet connectivity,” reads one of the declarations from The Age-Verified Tribal Online and In-Person Sports Wagering and Homelessness Solutions Act. “Out-of-state and international gaming operators want to rewrite the balanced system California has created so that the future belongs to them, paying a pittance to serious local and statewide social problems, and trying to divide the Tribes by offering a temporary riches to a few while taking future growth opportunities away from the rest.”
Under the proposed measure, tribes would be able to launch sports betting operations on or after Sept. 1, 2023. They would be allowed one skin or app, and that must be branded under either the tribe’s name, a registered trademark of the tribe, or a trademark of an affiliate wholly owned by the tribe.
The proposal also includes a “hub-and-spoke” model where tribal nations not offering sports betting on their own can serve as a satellite facility for another tribe with a sports betting operation. The satellite tribes must receive at least half of the proceeds they generate.
Another provision the tribes seek is mandatory in-person registration for online accounts with no sunset date.
Short Turnaround Time Awaits
The tribal proposal is currently under review and public comments will be accepted through Dec. 6. In the letter sent to tribes, proponents encouraged their colleagues to offer their recommendations for the measure.
Tribal leaders will likely receive the summary for the measure toward the end of the year. That would give them about four months to gather the necessary signatures in order to get them verified in time for a spot on next year’s ballot. That’s based on recommendations given by the secretary of state’s office.
Sportsbooks Start California Petition Drive
While California’s tribal nations await the chance to start their second signature drive, the proposed measure offered by seven major or aspiring sports betting operators received its summary on Friday, allowing proponents to begin circulating petitions across the state.
Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support cite a state analysis indicting their proposal would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. Proceeds would help fund programs to help the unhoused and bolster mental health programs.
“This ballot measure will be a guaranteed funding source for years to come, and it will allow cities like Fresno to help those experiencing homelessness into housing and provide mental health support to those who are most in need,” Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer said in a statement.
Funding would also go toward tribal economic development projects.
Companies interested in licenses would need to pay a $100 million licensing fee and establish a partnership with an in-state tribal nation. Tribal nations would be eligible for licenses at a cost of $10 million. However, they would be limited to using their tribal name or the name of their casino for their application.
Supporters cite a survey taken in the summer that they claim shows the proposed measure enjoys 62 percent support among the public.
When Californians for Solutions filed its proposed measure in late August, their supporters said the proposal did not conflict with the tribal brick-and-mortar proposal. They then amended their proposal to garner support from the tribal nations.
But late last month, two tribal groups came out and voiced strong opposition to both the sportsbooks’ plan and the measure offered by cardroom supporters.
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