On November 16, 2023, the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) officially voiced their opposition to two proposed initiatives that seek to bring the issue of sports betting to a vote in California in 2024. The CNIGA, which represents 52 tribal casino operators in California, is the trade association for these establishments. The opposed initiatives are the Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act, which was put forward by Kasey Thompson and Reeve Collins.
Chairman James Siva of the CNIGA criticized the approach taken by Collins and Thompson, labeling them as “poker bro” and “tech bro.” He expressed strong disapproval of their handling of the initiative, stating that their actions were offensive and representative of outside influences trying to interfere with the Indian tribes.
The proponents of the Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act made a critical mistake by not consulting the California tribes before filing their plans. This approach may have doomed the proposal as California tribal casino operators hold exclusivity compacts with the state and any changes to Class III gaming, which includes sports wagering, must involve the tribes. Additionally, the CNIGA highlighted the voter fatigue on the issue after the 2022 fights over Proposition 26 and Proposition 27, which cost about $250 million and were both rejected by California voters.
While some member tribes of the CNIGA see a glimmer of hope in the proposed initiatives as a potential framework for a 2026 ballot initiative, the general consensus among California Tribal casino operators is that sports betting should not be reconsidered until the 2026 midterm election cycle. The tribes are open to working with other parties on the issue but emphasize the importance of being consulted as leaders of the plans.
Furthermore, tribal operators in California are in favor of a measured approach to sports wagering, preferring to start with retail sportsbooks at their casinos before expanding to mobile betting. Overall, the future of sports betting in California seems uncertain with the opposition of the CNIGA and the missteps of the proposed initiatives, making it unlikely for sports betting to be on the 2024 ballot.