California Sports Betting Update: Sportsbooks Ad Hits at ‘Wealthy’ Tribes

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California Sports Betting Update: Sportsbooks Ad Hits at ‘Wealthy’ Tribes

There are less than 100 days now until California voters decide if they want to legalize sports betting. And on Monday, the group behind a proposed constitutional amendment to allowing online wagering released an ad online that punches back at tribal gaming interests that oppose the measure.

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A screen capture from the latest ad by “Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support” was released Monday. The group, which supports a measure to legalize online sports betting, says its initiative would help small tribes in the state. (Image: Californians for Solutions)

The 30-second spot is from “Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support,” and it’s the latest in a multi-million-dollar electoral battle royale that’s likely to set records for money spent on a campaign initiative.

“Californians for Solutions” is the committee supported by $100 million from sports betting operators Barstool Sportsbook, Fanatics, BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel, Bally Bet, and WynnBET. While the group’s initiative, known as Proposition 27, would devote 85% of the tax revenue generated from online wagering to homelessness and mental health programs, the spot released Monday (see below) focuses mostly on tribal economic development, where the other 15% would go.

The narrator in the ad says Prop 27 is a “game changer” because it would help smaller tribes in the state, including those that aren’t engaged in gaming.

For years, California’s non-gaming Tribes have been left in the dust,” the narrator says. “Wealthy tribes with big casinos make billions while small tribes struggle in poverty.”

Under the proposed amendment, commercial sportsbooks would pay $100 million for a license, but they would have to establish a partnership with an in-state tribe. Tribes that wish to offer sports betting on their own could do so for a $10 million license, but they would be limited in how they could brand their app.

Tribes not involved in sports betting would be eligible to receive funding from the economic development fund established by the measure.

Sports Betting Ad War in California

Prop 27 is one of two sports betting initiatives that will appear on the Nov. 8 California ballot. The other is Proposition 26, a proposed amendment by tribal gaming interests to allow retail sports betting at Indian casinos and state-licensed horse racing tracks.

Most tribal gaming operators have come out for Prop 26 and against Prop 27, and less than two weeks ago, “Californians for Tribal Sovereignty and Safe Gaming,” a tribal-backed anti-Prop 27 group, released an ad (below) criticizing “Californians for Solutions” for trying to mislead voters about the online wagering measure. “Californians for Tribal Sovereignty,” said a “loophole” in the measure would mean tribes would not get as much money as promised.

Monday’s “Californians for Solutions” ad is seemingly a direct response to that ad.

“So who’s attacking Prop 27? Wealthy casino tribes who want all the money for themselves,” the narrator says.

Tribal Groups Decry New Spot

Just a couple of hours after “Californians for Solutions” released its ad, another tribal-backed group issued statements from California Indian gaming leaders who called the spot “shameful” and said the out-of-state sportsbooks want to undermine tribal gaming and autonomy.

The out-of-state corporations behind this ad should immediately pull it off the air and apologize to the tribal leaders,” said Lynn Valbuena, chairwoman of the Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations, in a statement released by the “Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming.” “These profit-driven Wall Street corporations have stooped to a new low by minimizing the progress California tribal nations have made through tribal government gaming.”

California Nations Indian Gaming Association Chairman James Siva said more than 50 in-state tribal nations oppose Prop 27.

However, that’s not all tribes. Among those that have come out in support of Prop 27 are the Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians and the Santa Rosa Indian Community of the Santa Rosa Rancheria.

Millions Raised By Groups So Far

According to the Los Angeles Times, the costliest ballot measure in California history was Proposition 22 in 2020. The initiative was backed by companies like Uber and Lyft to establish regulations that make drivers for such gig-economy companies independent contractors instead of employees. Organizations for and against the measure spent nearly $224.3 million on that campaign.

Based on records from the California Secretary of State’s office, the four committees that have been established to support or oppose either sports betting measure have already raised more than $235 million.

Besides the $100 million from the seven sportsbooks backing “Californians for Solutions,” the two tribal-backed groups have raised more than $95 million. The “Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming” has raised $60.2 million.

The other group engaged in the campaign is “Taxpayers Against Special Interest Monopolies,” an organization funded by state-licensed cardroom casinos that opposes Prop 26. Those cardrooms have raised $40.6 million.

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