A pair of tribes are set to break ranks and join those in support of mobile California sports betting.
Two Northern California tribes — the Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians and the Big Valley Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians — announced they are endorsing the California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act, which is backed by prominent online sportsbooks like DraftKings and FanDuel and would legalize online sports betting in the state.
The online initiative officially qualified for California’s ballot earlier this week.
A second sports betting initiative, the California Legalize Sports Betting on American Indian Lands Initiative, had already been certified for the November ballot. The Indian Lands Initiative would allow tribes and racetracks to offer retail-only sports betting, along with adding additional table games at tribal casinos.
Online Group Releases New Ad Campaign
In a new video advertisement, Jose “Moke” Simon, who serves as the chair of the Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians, said the online sports betting initiative would allow smaller tribes to make money through mobile sportsbook partnerships that would be prohibited under the tribal arrangement.
He also cited the act’s allocation of 85% of all tax revenue to funding solutions to homelessness as a key reason for the tribe’s support.
“Don’t believe the false attacks on the Solutions Act,” Simon said in the video. “Tribal leaders support the Solutions Act because it provides hundreds of millions every year for permanent solutions for homelessness, mental health and addiction in California.”
The campaign between the two sides has been heated. In recent weeks, online betting proponents have pushed back against the tribal initiative advertising, which claims online sports betting will lead to more underage gambling and gambling addiction.
A Solution for All Tribes in California
Another reason Simon and the Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians decided to link up with the online sports betting initiative was it offers gaming opportunities and revenue for smaller tribes.
“The act supports every California tribe, including financially disadvantaged tribes that don’t own big casinos,” Simon said in the video. “By taxing and regulating online sports betting for adults 21 and over, we can protect tribal sovereignty and finally do something about homelessness in California. Vote ‘yes’ on the Solutions Act.”
It’s unclear what effect tribal affiliation will have on overall voter support come November, though the San Francisco Chronicle said overall spending by both sides on the measure could eventually clear $300 million, which would dwarf Prop. 22 in 2020 as the most expensive initiative in the state’s history. Prop 22 dealt with independent contractor rules and was backed by ride-share companies Uber and Lyft.
For now, at least two of the 109 federally recognized tribes in California are on board with the online sports betting initiative.
Simon told the Chronicle, the tribe’s decision to join the online sports betting fray has to do with securing a promising future for younger members.
“We’re supporting the Solutions Act because it gives us an opportunity to protect our sovereignty and also create opportunities for economic wealth for the next seven generations for our tribe,” Simon said. “It also helps the state of California deal with some of the biggest problems that it has here, that is affecting every community, which is homelessness and mental health issues.”