After meeting with proponents of a new sports betting initiative for the 2024 ballot, California’s casino gambling tribes on Thursday gave up and demanded they withdraw the plan.
The California Nations Indian Gaming Association, which represents 52 tribes, said in an announcement Thursday afternoon that after meeting online with Kasey Thompson and Reeve Collins, the men who pushed the idea, its members voted to opposition to two proposed sports betting initiatives filed with the California Attorney General’s. Office in October.
“Our opposition could not be more clear and irrevocable,” CNIGA Chairman James Siva said in a statement. “The whole effort surrounding these initiatives is being handled so distastefully by the proponents of the initiative. It’s hard not to be offended when listening to these people speak. This is another example of outside influences trying to divide and conquer. of Indian tribes. We cannot allow history to repeat itself.”
Thompson, one of the main proponents of the initiative, said later that while he would not proceed without the support of the majority of the tribe, he was not convinced that the statement of the CNIGA reflected the interest of the majority of the tribes in his proposal. CNIGA represents nearly half of California’s 110 recognized tribes.
“The CNIGA came out against it the day we filed and my understanding is that only 18 of the 52 tribes voted with the rest of the tribes choosing to abstain until more information is presented,” he said. Thompson.
CNIGA Executive Director Susan Jensen said the group’s executive committee opened the discussion and voted on all its members. But many were in New Orleans attending the National Congress of American Indians, where Mark Macarro, chairman of the Pechanga Band of Indians in California, was elected president.
Of the 25 CNIGA tribal representatives who participated in the discussion of the proposed initiatives, Jensen said 18 voted against and five abstained. That result, he said, should not be taken as a sign of disagreement among tribal representatives.
“No tribe voted in support of them,” Jensen said, adding that those who voted represented both large and small tribes. “That’s almost as strong. Silence should not be taken as support. “
Thompson, a poker expert, and Collins, a founder of blockchain and cryptocurrency companies including Tether, were previously associated with another California tribe, the Pala Band of Mission Indians, which is not part of CNIGA, to develop a successful online gaming platform. , Pala Interactive. Nevada casino giant Boyd Gaming Corp. bought Pala Interactive a year ago for $172 million.
Boyd Gaming and the Pala tribe said they have nothing to do with the current sports betting effort.
Thompson and Collins hope to get unified support from the state’s tribes to help persuade voters — who effectively rejected a pair of sports betting measures in 2022 — to support the proposed new initiative.
In 2022, sports betting advocates offered two competing initiatives, Proposition 26, which would have allowed sports books in tribal casinos and authorized horse racing tracks, and Proposition 27, which will allow online sports betting through tribal agreements.
Tribes are divided over the measures, and even though supporters and opponents have raised nearly half a billion dollars — a record amount — voters are confused, alienated and overwhelmingly defeating them at the ballot box.
Industry experts say California will be the largest US market for legal sports betting if it is approved, but tribal support is key to success.
Victor Rocha, a Pechanga member and industry strategist, wrote in X earlier this month that California tribal leaders are closely watching similar developments in other states such as Florida, and that “the tribes will take a more approach” to sports betting.
Initiative efforts are expected for the 2026 California ballot.
Thompson said he and his colleagues are looking to end the losses of offshore online sports betting operations that siphon money from California tribes and state coffers. They said their plan would provide a way to bring operations under tribal control and state regulation, similar to how PokerStars was legalized.
The plan also allows major sports betting operations such as FanDuel and Draft Kings an avenue to partner with California tribes, ensuring they don’t oppose the move. And Thompson said he has lined up financial support to qualify and campaign for a ballot measure that will not pay tribes in the state. Although he and his colleagues did not develop their initiative plan with CNIGA, he said they discussed it with other tribal officials.
The CNIGA said that the recent initiative filed by the state surprised them. The CNIGA that day released a statement saying that tribal leaders were “deeply disappointed that the proponents of the two newly filed initiatives did not first reach the largest tribal gaming association of the State for consultation and input.”
“California tribes have been successfully engaged in the gaming market for more than four decades,” Siva said Thursday. “The Tribal Leaders are the experts, and we decide what is best for our people.”