Could Florida Ruling Impact California Tribal-Led Sports Betting Proposal?

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California could be voting on four sports betting initiatives next year, unless a federal court decision impacting the industry thousands of miles away in Florida derails the latest tribal-led effort.

U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled yesterday against a gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe and State of Florida that allowed statewide mobile sports betting through servers based on tribal land. Friedrich said in her ruling that the compact violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, or IGRA, which controls gaming on tribal land. 

At issue is whether that decision sets a precedent that could upend “The Age-Verified Tribal Online and In-Person Sports Wagering & Homelessness Solutions Act,” a proposed tribal-led California ballot measure that would allow statewide mobile sports betting through servers located on tribal land. Any California tribe that has an existing gaming compact with the state could offer mobile sports betting through reservation servers under the proposal. 

Four California tribes — the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, Wilton Rancheria, Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians — are behind the ballot measure. 

The California proposal is one of four proposed sports betting initiatives and the latest tribal-led proposed sportsbook initiative that could appear on the ballot in 2022. Already eligible for the ballot is the $12 million tribal-led “California Legalize Sports Betting on American Indian Lands Initiative” to legalize sports betting at tribal casinos and select racetracks. 

The other proposals are a sportsbook-led measure and an initiative led by cities and cardrooms.

A Look At The Latest California Tribal-Led Sports Betting Initiative

The tribal-based server initiative proposed by the four tribes was filed with the California Attorney General on Nov. 5, 2021 and is now in the middle of a public comment period. A fiscal impact statement is required before the proposal is forwarded to the California Secretary of State for circulation among voters sometime in Jan. 2022. 

That gives the four tribes proposing the measure time to look at the Florida federal decision and weigh the benefits of the proposed initiative. The tribes do not appear to have issued a statement since the Florida decision was handed down yesterday. 

In a Nov. 8, 2021 press release, the four tribes said the proposed initiative “is in the best interest of all Tribes and the citizens of California.” 

“Our guiding principles formed the framework for this initiative,” the tribes said in a joint statement.

Like the competing sportsbook and cardroom proposed initiatives, the latest tribal-led initiative would create a mechanism to increase funding for homelessness and mental health programs in California. 

The sportsbooks are pledging dedicated revenue for homelessness and mental health through the proposed “California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act” initiative. The cardroom-backed proposal is known as the “California Solutions to Homelessness, Public Education Funding, Affordable Housing, and Reduction of Problem Gambling Act.” 

A Brief History Of 2022 California Sports Betting Initiatives

The tribes filed the proposal after top sportsbooks filed a competing measure in August, followed by a city and cardroom-backed proposed initiative filed in September.  Both the sportsbook-led and cardroom-led proposals are cleared to start their petition drives, with signature deadlines set for next spring. 

All three proposals were filed after another California tribal-led sports betting initiative qualified for the 2022 ballot. That initiative — titled the California Legalize Sports Betting on American Indian Lands Initiative — was certified eligible for next year’s ballot on May 26, 2021. 

Because all four proposed sports betting initiatives require a constitutional amendment, at least 997,139 valid signatures are required for each to qualify for statewide ballot under California law.

About the Author

Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region who covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, she has been known to watch UK basketball from time to time.

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