A recent effort by three businessmen to bring mobile sports betting to California has ignited a firestorm with three powerful tribes and the controversial measure will likely be thwarted without their support.
Sports Betting Hijack
Reeve Collins, Kasey Thompson, and Ryan Taylor Walz are three businessmen who want to bring sports betting to California in cooperation with the state’s Native American tribes. However, the tribes are not cooperating and remain steadfast against any proposals as currently stated.
The Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, and Wilton Rancheria have sent a letter to the California attorney general’s office vehemently opposing the proposed measure despite it calling for the tribes to maintain their monopoly in the state’s gaming industry.
Why Are They Against It?
The tribes fear that the commercial operators would take too large a share in the proceeds. But although they would welcome the mobile sports betting platforms, ala DraftKings and FanDuel, to assist in the mobile gaming operations they want them as management services providers and not as operators, which would reduce the operators’ role and their share of the revenues.
Moreover, there is also the social underpinning of sports betting being stolen from them by outside concerns with no affiliation to the tribes, only greed. A group called the California Indian Country spent almost $250 million to derail a 2022 ballot initiative brought by seven commercial operators, and it appears their perspective has not changed.
The Devil’s in the Details
Kasey Thompson, one of the proponents of the proposed legislation, stated, “I agree with the integrity of tribal gaming, and that will be evident in the amendments. There is a gold standard in the U.S. of how companies are licensed in a regulatory environment and we are in full support of that.
“The  initiative is considered to be the most inclusive of tribal input and had over 70 of the 109 tribes in support… We agree with the original sponsors [of the 2021 proposal] that this is the ‘gold standard’ to go by… I am for rigorous regulation and oversight and was personally licensed in multiple states, so know what that process entails.”
Online Betting Concerns
However, the tribes disagree and advance the argument that the measure skirts many of the standard regulations seen throughout the nation concerning online sports betting and iGaming.
The tribes countered in their letter to the California Attorney General’s office that the proposal would, “exempt assets sold by illicit offshore online gaming operations to California Tribes.”
The letter went on to state, “This problematic new language advances the agenda of offshore online gaming operators to exploit and monetize their illicit assets. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) was enacted, in part, to shield the tribal gaming industry from organized crime and other corrupting influences, to ensure that Indian tribes are the primary beneficiaries of their gaming operations, and to assure that gaming is conducted fairly and honestly. Rigorous regulation and oversight are critical to ensure the integrity and honesty of tribal gaming.”
Thompson did say he and his colleagues would not advance any effort to bring mobile betting to the California masses without the support of the majority of the tribes. It appears they are well short of that but whether they proceed despite tribal backing remains unclear.