December 8, 2019 4 min read


California Tribal Operators Try to Snuff Out Sports Betting Competition

A coalition of 18 tribes in California now insists that tribal casinos are the only venue where sports betting should take place. The tribes are firmly opposed to mobile gaming and sports betting options.

California’s Casinos Want to Claim Exclusivity Over Sports Betting

California is closer to legalizing sports betting, but yet the concomitant economic boom could be stifled by over-protective tribal operators who have formed a powerful coalition to prevent any third-party businesses from setting-up shop in the state.

To establish control over California’s sports betting landscape, tribes plan to target licensed card rooms. However, their plan also includes suspension of all mobile and online wagering activities as well, depriving California’s residents from a handy opportunity to place wagers.

Home of some of the best sports franchises, such as the Golden State Warriors, San Francisco 49ers, and Giants, legalizing the sports betting industry could bring in hundreds of millions in potential tax gains for the state coffers.

While states haven’t been able to oppose expansion, they have been able to create a would-be framework that would limit competition and the money contributed to the state. While not formally holding a monopoly, tribes will be very nearly an insurmountable obstacle for any third-partiy wanting in on the betting action.

To succeed the 18 tribes have already submitted a proposal to the Attorney General office on November 13, and they intend to add it to the referendum due in November 2020. The move comes on the footsteps of legalizing sports betting nationally.

While the federal ban known as PASPA has been suspended, states still need to thrash out the details themselves. So far, 13 states have successfully passed measures, but there are going to be at least six more in 2020.

“It’s not in the best interest of all Californians.”

The measure that tribes want to push through a referendum would allow them to be the sole proprietors of sports betting facilities in California. It would also allow tribal brands to expand their own operations and include table games, such as roulette, craps, and other popular products sought-after in casinos.

Yet, to get its way – which would require a majority – California’s powerful tribal coalition needs to garner at least 997,139 signatures. Those are signatures of people registered to vote.

Some have been sceptical. State Sen. Bill Dodd, has argued that the proposed measures solely focus on tribes. In 2016, the tribes amassed the impressive $8.6 billion in revenue and paid back around $48 million back to California, a fraction of the total number.

Tribes are also not disclosing their numbers to the public and have privately arranged compacts with the state. Each tribe has its own compact that’s independent from the rest. Sen. Dodd also said that it was all done to favor the tribes disproportionately at the expense of Californians: “It’s not in the best interest of all Californians,” he concluded.

Nobody in a Hurry to Stop Offshore Sports Betting

Experts have also agreed that Californians are unlikely to swap the convenience of remote gambling and betting – often found at offshore sports betting sites – with going to a casino. The Golden State techies would much rather stick with a remote gambling opportunity that comes with worse player protect, Dodd added himself.

Yet, the tribes begged to differ. Tribal alliance spokesperson Jacob Mejia argued to the contrary:

“Tribal leaders believe this measure represents a viable path toward voter approval of sports betting. The measure provides a solid framework and requires additional legislation for implementation.”

Mejia explained that proposing online gambling as an option would diminish the chances of the proposal to pass through the ballot box in November. California Gaming Association Kyle Kirkland rebuked the official position, arguing that it was a ‘self-serving’ stance.

Kirkland reminded tribes that estimated $150 billion were wagered in illegal bets in the United States, citing information released by the American Gaming Association (AGA). He insisted that Californians deserve accessible betting options as opposed to poor alternatives too narrowly focused on bringing profit to certain operators.

Dodd remains committed to launch a new offensive on the legal front in January, 2020 with the hopes being to negotiate a legal framework that protects the interests of Californians and allows them to bet safely.

Lead Editor

Mike made his mark on the industry at a young age as a consultant to companies that would grow to become regulators. Now he dedicates his weekdays to his new project a the lead editor of, aiming to educate the masses on the latest developments in the gambling circuit.

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