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Tribal operators launch ballot measure for California sports betting


Four tribal operators in California have introduced a new ballot measure that would bring sports betting to the state if approved.

The proposal, titled the Age Verified Tribal Online and In-Person Sports Wagering & Homelessness Solutions Act, would allow both in-person and online sports wagering to be conducted and regulated by tribal operators with additional regulation by the state of California and the federal government. The proposal argued that tribal operators are “the best entities to safely offer sports wagering”.

The measure is backed by the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians, Wilton Rancheria, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

According to the text of the measure, if the tribes are granted the ability to conduct sports wagering, they will organize direct payments to the state of California to address issues of homelessness and mental health disorders.

As such, the tribes must contribute 10% of its adjusted sports wagering gross gaming revenue (GGR) to the California Homelessness and Mental Fund, along with donating 10% of its GGR to the Tribal Sports Wagering Revenue Sharing Trust Fund.

The petition also states that the state of California will receive “hundreds of millions of dollars” in annual revenue from the implementation of sports betting through the tribes.

“Our guiding principles formed the framework for this Initiative,” the tribes said. “In addition to protecting tribal gaming exclusivity and promoting tribal sovereignty, the Initiative provides benefits for limited gaming and non-gaming Tribes and a fund to help address homelessness and mental health. Further, the Initiative provides for an IGRA-governed environment for sports wagering and provides benefits for the State of California.”

In September a number of US commercial operators proposed a similar ballot measure, which also aims to bring sports betting to California and focuses on provisions for mental health and homelessness. In this proposal, Native American tribes would be permitted to offer statewide betting in partnership with commercial operators

The measure was backed by seven operators- Bally’s, BetMGM, DraftKings, Fanatics, FanDuel, Penn National Gaming and Wynn Interactive.

Similarly to the commercial-operator supported measure proposed in September, the tribal proposal would require signatures from 8% of the amount of people who voted in the previous gubernatorial election before it was filed in order to be placed on the ballot as a referendum. This because the act would require an amendment to the state constitution.

For the current election cycle, the total lies at 997,139.

If all signatures are acquired the proposal will appear on the November 2022 ballot. If passed, the bill will take effect no earlier than September 1 2023.

In November 2019, 18 tribes launched a proposal to only allow sports betting at tribal casinos and state racetracks. This proposal was criticized in an analysis by the Legislative Analyst’s Office in January 2019, which questioned the high regulation and enforcement costs that would come with the measure.

Although the signature-collecting process for the measure was granted an extension due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it did not appear on the election ballot.