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Sports Betting Alliance opposes California sports betting ballots

| By Robert Fletcher
The Sports Betting Alliance (SBA), a group of leading US gambling operators, has declared its opposition to two sports betting ballots in California, saying it will not financially support either initiative.
California betting ballots

Both ballots would give tribes exclusive rights to offer retail and online sports betting in California. They were filed with the state’s attorney-general in October 2023.

The two ballots name Reeve Collins, co-founder and CEO of Pala Interactive, as the contact for media inquiries. Pala Interactive was founded by the Pala Band of Mission Indians in 2013. It was acquired by Boyd Gaming in November 2022.

Authors of the ballots have been seeking financial support for signature gathering from sports betting operators. However, SBA members – BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel and Fanatics Sportsbooks – have said they will not provide funding.

SBA blasts proposed ballots

SBA spokesperson Nathan Click says this is in line with the organisation’s opposition to the measures.

“In the interest of clarity, and consistent with our previously stated opposition to these measures, we can commit that SBA won’t be funding or otherwise supporting either of these sports wagering initiatives,” Click said. “Without significant and widespread tribal support this initiative fails and sets back productive conversations for several years. 

“Further, this initiative is constructed to prevent the market from reaching anything close to its potential to the detriment of all stakeholders – commercial operators, Californians, gaming and Revenue Sharing Trust Fund tribes – while enabling the unregulated illegal market to continue to thrive. 

“Finally, the original premise of building a business based off customers acquired illegally through offshore operations falls significantly short of the regulatory standards to which our membership adheres.”

What are the ballots proposing in California? 

The first version of one ballot, entitled The Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act, set out detail proposals. These included tribes submitting 15% of adjusted sports betting gross gaming revenue (GGR) into a tribal wagering revenue sharing trust fund.

Tribes would also contribute 10% of their adjusted sports wagering GGR into the California homelessness and mental health fund. In addition, tribes would need to partner sports betting operators, which would operate as vendors. 

The initial version was amended in December in an effort to gain tribal support. Changes include that sports wagering could not launch until 1 July 2025. This is slightly earlier than the originally proposed date of 1 September 2025.

Tribes receiving approximately $1.0m (£786,254/€913,395) yearly under current conditions would receive an estimated 15-20 times more under the proposed measures.

Sports betting GGR contributions to the tribal wagering revenue sharing trust fund increased from 15% to 25%. In addition, a requirement for in-person online gambling registration for those outside a 10-mile radius from a casino will be removed after two years.

Details are sparse on the other ballot proposal, entitled The Tribal Gaming Protection Act. It outlines that sports betting will be offered exclusively through tribes in California.

What can we expect next?

The SBA declaration will come as another blow to ballot backers, with many tribes and other operators having also stated their opposition to the measures.

When the ballots were first published, it was stated Pala Interactive had 180 days to gather the required signatures through random sample.  

Backers would need 874,641 signatures for the ballot to be put forward for consideration with voters. Election officials would also need to verify at least 500 of them. The 2024 election will take place on 5 November.

The ballots are the latest effort to legalise sports wagering in some form in California. In November 2022, voters rejected sports betting proposals – despite a poll in February 2022 revealing some support for legal sports betting

In May 2022, it was confirmed a proposition would feature on the ballot. This was to sit alongside another sports betting initiative backed by tribal gaming groups entitled the Tribal Sports Wagering Act Initiative.

However, Democrats in California recommended voters vote against the proposals. Both proposals appeared on the ballot but were ultimately rejected by voters.

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