The possibility of regulated sports betting in California has come to the forefront, as some commercial gaming companies are joining forces with the state’s largest tribes in opposition to a pair of recently submitted sports wagering proposals. The proposals, including The Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act, were recently filed by Eagle1 Acquisitions Corp. Last week, Attorney General Rob Bonta (D-CA) gave the go-ahead for the group to gather signatures to potentially get the proposals on the 2024 ballot. However, the state’s largest Tribal casino operators are opposed to these efforts and are receiving support from commercial sportsbook operators.
The growing partnership between commercial operators and tribes is significant, particularly considering that in 2022, California Tribes and private-sector gaming companies faced off on Propositions 26 and 27, both of which were overwhelmingly rejected by voters. Now, some unidentified commercial gaming entities may be partnering with a small number of the state’s biggest revenue-generating tribes to combat The Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act, and related efforts.

Jefferies analyst David Katz wrote in a report to clients that “Given the divergent views of the multitude of tribes, we believe a smaller group of the largest tribes is expected to drive the process”. He also mentioned that it’s crucial for commercial and tribal operators to find common ground in California for any meaningful progress to occur.

While California is home to over 70 tribal casinos, the revenue-generating capabilities of these venues vary widely. The Agua Caliente, Barona, Graton Rancheria, Rincon, and San Manuel Tribes are among the largest tribal casinos in terms of revenue and combined to spend $220 million in 2022 to defeat Proposition 27. These are the tribes that commercial operators may be aligning with in this latest effort.

Eagle1 must garner 874,641 signatures by April to potentially get the issue of sports wagering on this year’s ballot in California. However, even if they are successful, tribal operators in the state are hesitant to push the matter over the near term and are viewing it as a 2026 issue, with mobile betting further out than that. Even if Eagle1 is successful in getting the issue on this year’s ballot, the combined resources of the tribes and private-sector operators could ensure The Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act is defeated.

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