The state of California will likely have two sports betting initiatives on its ballot this fall.
The two initiatives are vastly different. And if both pass, the two measures would simultaneously control California sports betting.
Both initiatives cleared the roughly 1 million signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot, while a third ballot drive funded by the state’s card rooms fell short.
The California Legalize Sports Betting on American Indian Lands Initiative would allow retail sports betting at tribal casinos.
The California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act, which has received support from mobile sports betting mainstays like DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook, would allow mobile sports betting in California. It is in the process of having its submitted signatures approved to officially qualify for November’s ballot.
Jacob Mejia, who serves as the director of public affairs for the Pechanga Development Corporation, talked with BetCalifornia.com about the tribal sports betting initiative and what it aims to accomplish.
Below is a transcript of that conversation, edited for brevity and clarity.
Tribes Reaching Out to Voters, Key Organizations
BetCalifornia.com: We’re six months away from Election Day. How is your camp feeling about your sports betting initiative?
Jacob Mejia: Everything is going very well. We're picking up endorsements from the key organizations throughout the state. And we feel like we're in a very strong position.
BetCalifornia.com: Take us through what some of the benchmarks are between now and November. What are some of the things you guys hope to achieve, and how do you guys plan on getting there?
Mejia: Well, we are already qualified for the November ballot. And so now we are just communicating with the voters and with various groups and organizations throughout the state about the sports wagering issue.
BetCalifornia.com: Now that you have qualified for the November ballot, what does that say about the connection tribes have with the state’s voters, and how will that support play out this fall in your opinion?
Mejia: Well, I think it continues to reinforce the longstanding support that the voters have expressed for tribal gaming for more than 20 years. Tribes have been on the ballot now almost 10 times and have won almost every one of those campaigns.
So, obviously, tribes are grateful for having been entrusted by the voters to have tribal gaming on tribal lands. And the already qualified in-person sports wagering measure simply builds on that legacy.
Retail Sports Betting May Take Year to Launch After Vote
BetCalifornia.com: What sorts of timelines are you all looking at, in terms of getting sports betting launched in the state if your initiative passes this November?
Mejia: Bear in mind, the initiative was originally intended to be on the November 2020 ballot. And so therefore, the tribes will need to enter compact addendums with the state of California, those compact addendums will need to be ratified and reviewed by the Department of the Interior. That takes a little bit of time. And so, we had originally built in getting up to a year to undertake those processes.
BetCalifornia.com: Obviously, there are two sports betting initiatives on the ballot this year. Take us through why retail is the right choice, in your opinion, and what you would tell people that might ask why not get in-person and online legalized to maximize the state’s gaming revenue?
BetCalifornia.com: So, the tribal in-person sports wagering measure, it's straightforward. It simply adds sports wagering and craps and roulette for tribal casinos.
As I mentioned, tribal gaming has been on the ballot now nine different times. There's a deep respect that the perspective tribal leaders have for the voters. And they had a lot of conversations with voters to understand what it is that voters were willing to support.
And the voters have been pretty loud and clear. They're willing to support additional games at tribal casinos. They are not willing to support a massive expansion of online sports betting, and that's why the thinking has always been an incremental approach to sports wagering — first authorize it at places that voters trust.
BetCalifornia.com: What would you tell voters about why now is the right time to expand gambling in the state of California?
Mejia: Obviously, following the Supreme Court ruling on PASPA, leaders felt this was an important additional game that can be offered to California consumers.