2024 Ballot Unlikely to Include California Sports Betting

On November 9, 2023, leaders of California tribal gaming expressed their belief that voters in the state are still tired of the sports betting issue. They discussed proposals to advance the issue before the 2024 election cycle, concluding that it is unlikely to make progress.

During a webinar, James Giles, executive director of the Indian Gaming Association, Indian Gaming Association Conference Chairman Victor Rocha, and California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) Chairman James Siva addressed the Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act, which was introduced on October 27.

The proposal, presented by Kasey Thompson and Reeve Collins of Pala Interactive, was submitted to major tribal casino operators without prior discussions, which was seen as a misstep. The failure to consult tribes prior to filing the proposed ballot initiative could prove to be detrimental.

James Siva stated that tribes have decided to wait for an election cycle and let sports betting move out of the media and voters’ minds. He expressed that the 2022 fights over Proposition 26 and Proposition 27 were the most expensive ballot fight in California history, showing the exhaustion of voters on the issue.

Tribes in California have exclusive compacts with the state, and any additions to Class III gaming come through tribal operators. They expressed that nontribal influences cannot push tribes to the California sports wagering table.

Instead, the tribes want to be the initiators of sports betting efforts in the state, and outsiders who want to advance that effort need to work with tribal operators as partners.

Rocha and Siva noted that the Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act could provide a template for a 2026 ballot proposition, creating a runway for future efforts.

The deadline to get the proposal on the 2024 ballot is June 27, 2024, but it seems unlikely to happen. Additionally, the tribes want to start with retail betting and push mobile wagering further out, which is viewed as a flawed approach due to California’s large population centers not being located near tribal casinos.

Rocha emphasized that they will eventually incorporate mobile betting, but for now, they want to start with a retail approach despite data indicating that the majority of regulated sports bets in the US are placed on computers or mobile devices.