Major Online Sportsbooks in USA Oppose Latest California Sports Betting Bill

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Jan 11, 2024 12:00 AM
The Kansas City Chiefs may be favored in their Wild Card matchup against the Miami Dolphins, but they're far from locks to advance.

The push for the legalization of California sports betting in 2024 is shaping up to be less controversial than we thought. And that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Optimism grew ever so slightly once the attorney general officially approved a pair of California sports betting bills to open 2024. But that spike was neutralized just as fast, if not faster, as it materialized. 

Soon after news broke that a set of sports gambling proposals were on The Golden State’s table, we learned that these measures were introduced without first consulting California’s tribes. This is a major issue—and the mother of all red flags.

Federally recognized tribes in California have gaming exclusivity inside the state. The legalization of sports betting in California requires an amendment to their gaming compacts. And to make those changes, you obviously need the support of the tribes.

Introducing a new sports gambling bill without collaboration is not a good way to generate that backing. Not surprisingly, this methodology does not appeal to the tribes. Most of the state’s tribes jointly announced their opposition to the approved sports betting initiatives. Calling their stance an “opposition” might even put it too lightly. Tribal officials absolutely ethered the California sports betting measures and the people behind them.

Some nevertheless still wonder whether the bills have a chance. Circumstances can always change. What if the proposals garner support inside the California House of Representatives and Senate? Or what if online sportsbook operators in the United States, support them? 

Well, it’s clear now that doesn’t appear to be in the cards. Major online sportsbooks in the USA have officially come out and denounced the current California sports betting measures. Naturally, this raises the question: What happens now?

Authors of New California Sports Betting Bills Tried to Get Support from Online Operators

Typically, you do not expect a coalition of United States online betting sites to jointly comment on a matter. But in the face of intense opposition from the state’s tribes, the authors of the gambling bill are seeking the support of online operators themselves. As Legal Sports Report’s Mike Mazzeo wrote, this isn't working out so well for them:

“A coalition of major US sports betting operators is publicly opposing the upcoming California sports betting initiatives. FanDuel Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook, Fanatics Sportsbook and BetMGM (the four members of the Sports Betting Alliance), oppose the efforts of proponents Kasey Thompson, Reeve Collins and Ryan Tyler Walz, a spokesperson for the SBA told LSR Tuesday. 

“‘We recently learned that the authors of two sports wagering initiatives in California are trying to find financial support for signature gathering from sports betting operators,’ SBA spokesperson Nathan Click told LSR. ‘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.’”

This development is almost comical. Did Thompson, Collins and Walz really think they could circumvent tribal opposition by going directly to the sportsbooks.

Nevermind that the authors of these bills also didn’t consult the Sports Betting Alliance members. Even if they receive the stamp of approval from them, their legalization efforts probably would be futile. 

Remember: The state’s House and Senate members tend to side with tribal operators. That’s what happened last year when the state’s tribes and this same coalition of top United States online sportsbooks proposed competing ballot measures in 2022. And we all know how that turned out: with both measures being shot down at the polls.

Could This Actually be a Good Development for the Future of Sports Gambling in California?

Widespread opposition to the only two California sports betting bills currently on the legislative docket does not seem like a blessing in disguise. And yet, in this case, it just might be.

Online operators and California tribes remain at odds over the future of sports betting. Members of the Sports Betting Alliance want independent licenses to offer gambling services. The tribes only want them present in a supporting capacity.

These divergent agendas essentially led to the collapse of California sports betting hopes in 2022. They have also potentially ruined California’s chances of legal sports betting in 2024. As of now, neither side has proposed their own bill. And even if they did, the other party is bound to counter-lobby against it as they did a couple of years ago.

All along, though, tribal officials have maintained that they are willing to sit down and negotiate with online sportsbooks. Whether those talks have ever happened is anyone’s guess. If they have taken place, we’ve certainly heard nothing about it. But could uniting against the latest two sports betting proposals be the common ground tribes and online operators need to start meaningfully discussing potential compromises? Who knows. It’s hardly farfetched, though, to believe this might initiate an (overdue) series of discussions.

In the meantime, one thing is absolutely certain: The two California sports betting measures presently up for consideration have a sub-zero shot at success. Failing to gain the support of even one of the state’s tribes or top online operators may have been a death knell. Disenfranchising both ensures this latest attempt to legalize California sports betting is more gimmick than actual strategy. This, of course, will be a bummer to gambling enthusiasts inside The Golden State. It likely means at least another two years without sports betting in California. Technically, though, there’s still time for online operators, the state’s tribes or both to propose a bill (or bills) of their own. Let’s see if this latest development convinces one or both to do just that.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan first began writing about sports back in 2011. At the time, his expertise lied in the NBA and NFL. More than one decade, that remains the case. But he's also expanded his catalog to include extensive knowledge and analysis on the NHL, MLB, tennis, NASCAR, college ba...

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