The Sports Betting Alliance (SBA), a group of leading U.S. gaming operators, has spoken out against two sports betting votes in California, saying it will not financially support either initiative.

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

In the two votes, Reeve Collins, co-founder and CEO of Pala Interactive, is named as the contact person for media inquiries. Pala Interactive was founded in 2013 by the Pala Band of Mission Indians. In November 2022 it was acquired by Boyd Gaming.

The authors of the ballot papers have asked sports betting providers for financial support to collect signatures. However, SBA members – BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel and Fanatics Sportsbooks – have said they will not provide financing.

SBA Rejects Proposed Ballots

SBA spokesman Nathan Click says this is consistent with the organization’s opposition to the measures.

“In the interest of clarity and consistent with our previously stated opposition to these actions, we can assure that the SBA will not fund or otherwise support any of these sports betting initiatives,” Click said. “Without significant and widespread tribal support, this initiative will fail and set back productive conversations for several years.

“Furthermore, this initiative is intended to prevent the market from anywhere near its potential, to the detriment of all parties involved – commercial operators, Californians, gaming and revenue sharing trust fund tribes – while ensuring that the unregulated illegal Market continues to thrive.”

“After all, the original premise of building a business based on customers acquired illegally through offshore activities falls well short of the regulatory standards to which our members adhere.”

What do California ballots suggest?

The first version of a ballot titled “The Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act” contained detailed proposals. This included tribes contributing 15% of adjusted gross gaming revenue (GGR) from sports betting into a tribal trust fund for betting revenue sharing.

Tribes would also contribute 10% of their adjusted sports betting GGR to California’s Homelessness and Mental Health Fund. In addition, the tribes would have to work with sports betting companies that would act as providers.

The original version was changed in December to gain tribal support. The changes include that sports betting cannot be introduced until July 1, 2025. This is slightly earlier than the originally proposed date of September 1, 2025.

Tribes, which receive approximately US$1.0 million (£786,254/€913,395) annually under current conditions, would receive an estimated 15 to 20 times that amount under the proposed measures.

Sports betting GGR contributions to the tribal trust fund for sharing betting revenue increased from 15% to 25%. Additionally, the requirement for personal online gambling registration for those outside a 10-mile radius of a casino will be eliminated after two years.

Few details are known about the other ballot proposal, titled “The Tribal Gaming Protection Act.” It explains that sports betting is offered exclusively through tribes in California.

What can we expect next?

The SBA statement will be another blow to election advocates, as many tribes and other operators have also expressed opposition to the measures.

When the ballots were first released, it said Pala Interactive had 180 days to collect the required signatures via random sampling.

Supporters would need 874,641 signatures for the ballot to be submitted to voters for review. Election officials would also have to check at least 500 of them. The 2024 election will take place on November 5th.

The votes are the latest attempt to legalize sports betting in some form in California. In November 2022, voters rejected sports betting proposals – although a poll in February 2022 showed some support for legal sports betting.

In May 2022, it was confirmed that a proposal would be on the ballot. This should be done in parallel with another sports betting initiative supported by tribal gaming groups titled Tribal Sports Betting Act Initiative.

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