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California sports betting initiative stalled amid tribal opposition



In a recent turn of events, the initiative to introduce sports betting in California has reached a halt as proponents face formidable opposition from gaming tribes in the state.

The decision to discontinue the initiative stems from challenges in garnering support from tribal entities, which was essential for its progress.

Kasey Thompson, spokesperson for the initiative, expressed his initial intent to create a proposal that benefited tribes but soon realized that it was causing division within the tribal community. As tribal opposition mounted, with some private encouragement and limited public support among the 110 federally recognized California tribes, Thompson has decided not to proceed with the initiative, choosing unity over division.

Tribal Opposition Grows


From the outset, Thompson had emphasized the importance of tribal support for the initiative. However, tribal opposition continued to mount, with some of the larger tribes expressing their disapproval, making it increasingly challenging for the proposal to move forward.

Thompson’s initial plans to print 1.2 million petitions and engage in signature collection remained unfulfilled, and no ballot measure committee was established to initiate a campaign or hire a signature gathering firm. Despite having a firm ready for signature collection, Thompson refrained from committing $5 million to initiate the process due to the lack of tribal support.

A Strategic Misstep

One of the key issues was the timeline Thompson left for the tribes to consider the proposal. California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) Chairman James Siva pointed out that the rushed timeline was detrimental to the initiative’s prospects. Tribes require time for discussions and consensus-building, and the initiative’s timing left them feeling cornered, leading to resistance.


The manner in which the initiative was introduced without prior tribal involvement also contributed to the opposition. While Thompson had discussions with some tribes before filing the initiative, it was kept relatively low-key, prioritizing the initiative’s status as the sole sports betting proposal for the ballot.

Division Among Tribes

Efforts to gain tribal support for the initiative created division among tribes. While some smaller, Revenue Sharing Trust Fund (RSTF) tribes saw it as an opportunity to receive real revenue from gaming, larger tribes remained cautious. Thompson attempted to address this by amending the initiative to allocate the entire 25% tax collected to RSTF tribes. While this garnered support from some RSTF tribes, it deepened the divide within the tribal community.

A Diminished Vision


Despite Thompson’s hopes for broad support, the initiative struggled to gain public backing. Even Pala, the original tribe involved, refrained from publicly supporting the initiative. Thompson eventually considered collecting signatures but only if sports betting operators contributed. However, the Sports Betting Alliance, representing four top sports betting operators, voiced its official opposition to the initiative.

In a last-ditch effort, Thompson proposed offering a group of tribes a $25 million check and stepping aside to let them lead the initiative as a tribal proposal. Unfortunately, the required support was not forthcoming.

Looking Forward

With the initiative now abandoned, Californians will not see a sports betting proposal on the ballot in 2024 unless legislators pursue a ballot referendum, which remains unlikely. According to tribal representatives, a successful sports betting proposal in California would likely come from tribes, with possibilities in 2026 or 2028.


James Siva also suggested a preference for introducing sports betting in person at tribal casinos, taking an incremental approach to online sports betting.

Kasey Thompson expressed his understanding of the tribes’ perspective and willingness to work with them in the future, hoping to contribute positively to the gaming landscape.

While the initiative faced significant challenges and ultimately met its end, the path forward for sports betting in California may still hold promise, provided that tribes can unite around a comprehensive proposal that aligns with their interests and garners broader support.


Jerome, a valuable addition to the Gamingo.News team, brings with him extensive journalistic experience in the iGaming sector. His interest in the industry was sparked during his college years when he participated in local poker tournaments, eventually leading to his exposure to the burgeoning world of online poker and casino rooms. Jerome now utilizes his accumulated knowledge to fuel his passion for journalism, providing the team with the latest online scoops.

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