Amendments To Sports Betting Measure Fail To Sway California Tribal Gaming Leaders

Amendments To Sports Betting Measure Fail To Sway California Tribal Gaming Leaders
Fact Checked by Nate Hamilton

Three weeks after initially rejecting a proposed measure to legalize California sports betting that its supporters said was friendly toward the state’s tribes, the group representing most of the state’s tribal gaming nations has again declined to endorse the initiative after proponents made some changes. learned that members of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association met again Thursday to vote on the amended Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act, a proposed constitutional amendment that could potentially go before California voters next November. Like last month’s vote, the association’s decision to reject was unanimous. This time, though, roughly three-quarters of CNIGA’s 52 member tribes attended the meeting, compared to 18 last month.

After last month’s vote, CNIGA Chairman James Siva blasted the measure’s sponsors for “trying to divide and conquer” the state’s tribes.

Proponents Believe Measure Has Strong Tribal Support

In late October, representatives from Eagle1 Acquisitions Corp. filed the measure with the California Secretary of State. That submission started a public review process, and after receiving feedback from tribes and other stakeholders, supporters made several changes to their initiative.

Those changes included revising how much money tribes would receive from revenue sharing and allowing an in-person registration requirement for people wanting California sports betting app accounts but live more than 10 miles from a casino to sunset after two years. The amended measure also called for promotional credits to become taxable after five years.

In a statement earlier this week announcing the changes, Eagle1 partner Kasey Thompson said the group’s actions “took a proposal that had the support of more than 70 tribes and was one of the most tribal-focused propositions ever, made amendments based on tribal and regulator feedback and updated it for today’s legal landscape.”

The list of the tribes supporting it was unavailable, according to an Eagle1 spokesperson. Thompson also said the measure would not go forward without support from more than half of California’s tribal nations. California has 109 federally recognized tribes, and according to the American Gaming Association, there are 76 tribes with gaming compacts, 64 of which operate 67 casinos. Reached for comment on Thursday after CNIGA’s second vote, Thompson did not seem deterred.

“This is nothing new,” he said. “They came out with an irrevocable vote on Day 1, and that has never changed. We believe the amended proposition currently has majority support, and if that comes out publicly, we hope CNIGA will retract their opposition in the interest of tribal unity.”

What’s Next For Proposed California Sports Betting Measure?

With the initiative’s language amended, it is now with the California Attorney General’s office, which will draft the title and summary that will be included in petitions that supporters will circulate across the state. The Department of Finance and the Legislative Analyst will also draft a fiscal note to determine the sports betting measure's impact on the state if approved. That analysis must be completed within 50 days of the AG’s office receiving the initiative.

The AG’s office must return the measure to the proponents and the Secretary of State’s office no later than 15 days after receiving the fiscal note.

Proponents of the measure will then face a tight deadline to gather more than 874,641 signatures from registered voters to get it on the ballot. According to the Secretary of State’s office, the recommended deadline to submit signatures for county elections officials to verify random samples is April 23. Elections officers would have two months to confirm 500 signatures or 3% of the signatures submitted, whichever number is greater.

The percentage of valid signatures from the sample is calculated across the entire amount submitted to the county. If the final statewide calculation equals at least 110% of the needed total — 962,105 — then the measure would be eligible for the Nov. 7, 2024 election.

In addition to the tight timeframe, proponents will face significant opposition from tribal gaming operators that spent about $250 million just last year to successfully defeat an online sports betting measure offered by a group of commercial gaming operators.

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Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.

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