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Kindred expands US footprint with California and Arizona market access


Kindred Group has prepared for the potential legalization of sports betting in Arizona and California by signing a partnership with the Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation.

The Fort Yuma Indian Reservation extends from southeastern Imperial County in California to western Yuma County in Arizona. 

On this land it operates the Quechan Casino Resort in California, and the Paradise Casino in Arizona. 

The ten-year deal with Kindred allows the Unibet operator to launch sports betting, across online and retail channels, as well as igaming. It is currently live in Indiana, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, with access agreed for an additional seven states, including Illinois and Ohio.

“Going west is truly exciting and the partnership with Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation will grant Kindred access to two key states in the US market,” Kindred’s senior vice president for the US Manuel Stan commented. “California is likely to become one of the largest markets in the world, with yearly revenues expected to pass $2bn while Arizona, is expected to reach $200m yearly sports betting revenues at maturity. 

“Securing early access to these two key states puts us in a great position to prepare a successful launch together with a great partner with a strong local presence.”

The tribe’s president Jordan Joaquin added: “The Quechan Indian Tribe of Arizona and California is excited to be partnered with the Kindred Group, a world leading online sports book and gambling company, which will bring an exciting new form of gambling to the public and revenue for our tribal members.”

Kindred’s launch in each state is contingent on regulation passing. Arizona is closest of the two to legalizing sports betting, with Governor Doug Ducey calling on lawmakers to pursue modernized compacts with the state’s tribal operators that include sports betting. 

This was followed by Representative Jeff Weninger filling House Bill 2772 in the state’s legislature earlier in February. Weninger’s bill would legalize online and in-person wagering, as well as fantasy sports, and add limited Keno games at off-track betting locations and social clubs.

In California, the picture is less clear. Senator Bill Dodd’s Senate Constitutional Amendment 6 looked to grant exclusive sports betting rights to tribal operators and racetracks, covering in-person wagering and one mobile skin per venue. It would have gone to a statewide referendum before it could pass into law.

However, a clause that would have allowed the state’s cardrooms to offer player-dealer games – in which a player takes on the role of banker for each hand – was strongly criticised by tribal operators. 

The proposal was ultimately withdrawn, with Dodd saying there was not enough time to pass the bill, and tribes welcoming the move.

A rival ballot measure, put forward by a coalition of 18 Native American tribes, aims to only permit retail betting at racetracks and tribal casinos. The tribes had to collect 997,139 signatures from California residents to get the proposal on the ballot in November 2020, only for the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic to slow efforts to collect signatures. 

After a legal challenge, the coalition was granted a 90-day extension to collect sufficient signatures for the November 2022 ballot instead. Assuming there is no significant developments in the interim, this looks to be the earliest that Californian operators will accept their first legal bets.