Rocha, one of the most eloquent and influential voices in the Indian Gaming Association and host of The New Normal, tells Brendan Bussmann and Robin Harrison how any California sports betting debate will shake out.
“Smoke and mirrors”
“It’s insulting,” Rocha says of the new ballot measure, arguing it looks to drive a wedge between Californian gaming and non-gaming tribes. A set of amendments doesn’t make it any more palatable. “It’s all smoke and mirrors.
“These guys are not listening, because they don’t care. They want to go forward and they are shocked they don’t see Indians running towards them throwing flowers at their feet.”
California sports betting: All roads lead to the tribes
Gaming tribes aren’t trying to be obstructionist, he explains, in fighting for a deliberately slow ramp up to California sports betting.
Support for in-person betting in the Golden State is weak at best and there’s even less enthusiasm for mobile.
Slow and steady, starting with mobile then revisiting the mobile issue later, is the only way to ensure a safe and sustainable market, Rocha warns.
If not now, when?
And the new ballot measure pushes the tribal plans off kilter he adds. Tribes planned to use 2024 as a runway year for a renewed push in 2026. Another looming ballot battle could push California sports betting back.
There’s an ongoing culture clash, where “a sound approach to sustainable gaming” is mistaken for blocking measures he argues. California tribes own gaming in the state. Rocha, along with his business partner Gene Johnson, is starting to work to determine a viable model for sports betting and they have a finger on the state’s pulse.
“We have a plan,” he says to the commercial industry. “Shut up, get in the back seat, let us drive.”