As of October 27, two sports betting proposals have been filed in California for the 2024 election cycle, despite expectations of a challenging path to passage.
One of the two, The Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act, was filed with Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office by Ryan Waltz. The filing does not mention the Pala Band of Mission Indians.
Boyd Gaming completed the acquisition of Pala Interactive in November, exchanging $170 million in cash. Currently, there’s uncertainty surrounding Waltz’s identity and his connections to California tribal gaming. Nevertheless, in the filing with the Attorney General’s office, he confirmed his status as a registered voter in the state.
Reports earlier this month suggested that Pala Chairman Robert Smith engaged in discussions with other California tribal leaders to revive a sports betting ballot initiative for 2024. However, rumors suggest that his efforts faced opposition. In the 2022 midterm election cycle, both commercial and tribal gaming operators’ sports betting initiatives were decisively rejected by California voters.
California is highly sought after for sports betting due to its size. However, external sportsbook companies may face challenges due to tribal casinos’ strong control over casino gaming.
These casinos have exclusive agreements with the state, and they extend this to sports betting. They invested over $100 million to defeat the commercial gaming sports betting plan in 2022.
In the new filing, Walz uses familiar tactics. He highlights the contributions of California tribal casinos to state and local finances and emphasizes that California sports bettors are participating in an unregulated black market, potentially worth up to $1 billion annually.
Gaming is shifting towards online platforms and mobile devices with internet access, even though unregulated and untaxed sports wagering is prevalent in California, lacking consumer protections.
The document doesn’t mention that California tribal casino operators don’t pay traditional state income taxes. It also doesn’t acknowledge their desire to eliminate the state’s cardrooms, potentially harming the towns where they’re located and crucial services like 911 and parks.
The filing emphasizes the tribal casino entities in California as the only ones with the required experience to operate sports wagering in the state, likely causing dissatisfaction among pari-mutuel operators.
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