California Tribes Gain Support For Sports Betting Referendum That Leaves Out Mobile Wagering

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The potential exists for at least three California sports betting referendums to appear on the November General Election ballot. Today, a large coalition of backers for the only one guaranteed to come before the voters came out swinging. 

The Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming released a statement showing support from a wide variety of groups for its initiative, the Tribal Sports Wagering Act. 

“The in-person, Tribal Sports Wagering Act will allow Indian tribes to build on this legacy as the responsible stewards of gaming in California,” said Anthony Roberts, chairman of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, in the statement released by the organization.

The Tribal Sports Wagering Act allows for sports betting at tribal-run casinos and several privately operated racetracks in the state. It does not allow for mobile betting. 

Roberts took a swipe at other efforts circulating that are aiming to get on the ballot come November and do provide for mobile sports betting.

“On the other hand, the Corporate Online Gambling Proposition was written for the sole benefit of out-of-state online gambling corporations,” he said. “We’re proud to join with so many respected organizations as we make our case to the voters.”

Billions Of Dollars At Stake

Advocates on all sides of the sports betting issue are monitoring closely what happens in 2022. One estimate, unrelated to the referendum question, estimates California, the largest state in the country in terms of population, stands to gain $3 billion annually if sports betting is approved.

“California really comes down to structure,” said Chris Grove, a sports betting industry investor and partner in consulting firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, in an interview earlier this year with ESPN. “You could be looking at some pretty big swings depending on the who and how of sports betting authorization.”

Groups Who Oppose Mobile Betting Support Tribal Efforts

“Our support of the Tribal Sports Wagering Act is consistent with our long-standing support for disenfranchised communities to become self-sufficient,” said Rick L. Callender, president of the California Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP.

Callender specifically mentioned the lack of mobile betting as a reason for support. 

“Accordingly, the CA/HI NAACP has grave concerns about the impacts that a massive expansion of online and mobile gambling would have on problem gambling in California — particularly among youth and communities of color,” he added. 

David Leonhardi, president of the Deputy Sheriff’s Association of San Diego County, agreed.

“Online and mobile gambling are especially attractive to youth, and the Corporate Online Gambling Proposition lacks critical safeguards to prevent underage gambling, exposing our kids to increased risks of addiction and problem gambling,” he said.

The release listed more than 50 religious, social justice, business, and tribal-related organizations that support the Tribal Sports Wagering Act. 

Other Sports Betting Referendum Questions Still Possible

There are two other potential sports betting referendum questions that could make the ballot in the fall, thus complicating the issue. 

A group of California cities has banded together to bring sports betting to the state. Unlike the tribal initiative, it would allow for mobile sports betting and would allow entities other than the tribes to get in on the action. 

A third initiative is backed by major sportsbook operators FanDuel, BetMGM, and FanDuel.  It would also allow for mobile sports betting. It has the support of some tribal interests not involved in the already-approved referendum. In an effort to garner support from a wide variety of public interest groups, revenue raised from sports betting would target state homeless and mental health programs under this proposal.   

Both the referendum which would support homelessness and mental health issues and the referendum backed by the cities must file 997,139 valid signatures to be placed on the ballot.  The deadline for the homeless referendum is next month.  The deadline for the cities referendum is this week.

About the Author

Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary Shaffrey is an award-winning journalist who co-authored "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Government." She has spent more than 20 years covering government, both at the state and federal level. As a fan of the Baltimore Orioles and the Providence College Friars she feels cursed. Luckily she is a hockey mom too so her spirits aren't totally shot.

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