California Sports Betting Initiatives May Face Uphill Battle in 2024
The possibility of the passage of sports wagering initiatives in California in the 2024 election cycle appears to be uncertain. Recently, two proposals regarding this matter emerged, casting doubt on the chances of sports betting becoming legal in the largest state in the US.
One of the filings is known as The Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act. This proposal was signed for by Ryan Waltz, with media and public inquiries directed to Reeve Collins, the co-founder and chief executive of Pala Interactive. Pala Interactive is an online gaming arm of the California tribe with the same name. Strangely, the filing does not make any mention of the Pala Band of Mission Indians.
There is speculation about the identity of Ryan Waltz and his connections to California tribal gaming. The filing confirms that he is a registered voter in the state. Additionally, Boyd Gaming acquired Pala Interactive in November for $170 million, leaving the company’s current status uncertain.
Efforts to pass sports betting initiatives in California have faced resistance in the past. During the 2022 midterm election cycle, voters in the state rejected sports betting initiatives floated by commercial and tribal gaming operators. Consequently, the idea of legalizing sports betting in California is viewed as a contentious issue.
California, with a population of 39.24 million, is the most sought-after state for sports wagering due to its size. However, it is complicated by the exclusionary nature of tribal casino operators, who have exclusivity compacts with the state. These compacts give tribes control over casino gaming and have led to their belief that this monopoly extends to sports betting.
The filing for the sports betting act touts the contributions of California tribal casinos to state and local finances and points out the involvement of Californians in a regulated black market for sports betting. It also emphasizes the need for online-based platforms and mobile devices with internet connectivity. However, it fails to address the fact that California tribal casino operators do not pay traditional income to the state.
Furthermore, the filing suggests that only California tribal casino entities have the necessary experience to operate sports wagering in the state, frustrating other gaming operators. However, the experience of California tribes in operating sportsbooks is unproven, as the only casino operated by a California tribe in a state where sports wagering is permitted is not managed by the tribe but by a third party.
The future of sports wagering in California remains uncertain. Without the support of California’s largest tribal operators, the fate of the sports betting initiatives looks bleak. As it stands, the approval of sports betting in California in 2024 seems unlikely, with the consensus being that only Georgia, among mid-sized or large states, could approve the activity in that year.