Proponent Pledges To Begin Signature Gathering For California Sports Betting Initiative, But Won’t Commit To Finishing

Written By Matthew Kredell on January 2, 2024 - Last Updated on February 15, 2024
California Sports Betting Initiative Signature Campaign

A California sports betting initiative proponent tells PlayUSA he will begin collecting signatures to qualify the measure following the attorney general’s release of the circulating title and summary Tuesday.

“Of course we’re going to move forward with collecting signatures,” initiative spokesperson Kasey Thompson told PlayUSA. “I have the best signature company in California. As soon as we get the title and summary, I’ll have a printing company ready to fire off 1.2 million petitions for Californians to sign.”

Qualifying for the ballot requires producing 874,641 valid signatures. The secretary of state suggests submitting signatures for county verification by April 23.

Thompson told PlayUSA he would start but would not commit to finishing collecting signatures to qualify the sports betting initiative for the November ballot. He explained what he needed to see in the next six weeks to continue the effort.

Initiative proponents move forward despite tribal letter

Following a vote by the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) to oppose the initiative, CNIGA and 28 tribes sent initiative proponents a letter asking them to withdraw their proposal.

But Thompson was encouraged by four tribes recently coming out in support of the initiative, indicating a segment of tribes didn’t feel represented by the CNIGA vote.

“We’re starting signature gathering to preserve the ballot possibility because the writing is on the wall that a majority of tribes are shifting toward supporting the initiative,” Thompson said.

Daniel Salgado, chairman for the Cahuilla Band of Indians, told PlayUSA there were more tribes supporting the initiative, and he was putting together an association to represent Revenue Sharing Trust Fund tribes.

“People are extremely upset that they’ve been lied to and misled by CNIGA,” Thompson said. “Tribal leaders are seeing what’s in the bill and it’s not what they’ve been told.”

Thompson said the initiative would be a financial boon to all California tribes, particularly the 72 tribes currently receiving $1.1 million annually from the tribal Revenue Sharing Trust Fund.

“This initiative protects tribes while giving them all of the rights and all of the money. Rev-share tribes will get 25% revenue from online sports betting while craps and roulette will be a massive revenue generator for all gaming tribes. All 110 California tribes will make more than $50 million each over the first five years.”

Title and summary language

Here is the language produced for the circulating title and summary by the attorney general’s office. This is the language Californians will see when asked to sign a petition to put the measure on the ballot.

LEGALIZES ONLINE AND IN-PERSON SPORTS WAGERING AND OTHER NEW TYPES OF GAMBLING. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE. Legalizes online sports wagering statewide, and in-person sports wagering, roulette, and dice games on tribal lands, all of which currently are prohibited, if operated by federally recognized Indian tribes under gaming compacts approved by Legislature, the model compact approved by this measure, or state law enacted by this measure. Prohibits sports wagering by persons under 21. Requires participating tribes to pay up to 25% of sports-wagering profits to nonparticipating tribes and up to 1% to the state for regulatory costs.

No commitment to take initiative to ballot

Thompson said Eagle 1 Acquisition Co. would fund the beginning of a signature-gathering campaign but wants others in the industry to join in if it is to continue to the finish line.

He’s talking about the sports betting operators that spent $170 million backing an online sports betting initiative last election.

“Just because we start the signature campaign doesn’t mean we will go on the ballot,” Thompson said. “I’m going to start this but I’m expecting support from other operators, support from the out-of-state operators. If nobody wants to join in then it will be a shorter signature campaign.”

Thompson also wants to see how tribal support and opposition play out.

He pointed out that the Pechanga Band of Indians, one of the most vocal opponents of an online sports betting initiative in the last election cycle and in this proposal, continues to favor starting California with an in-person-only sports betting model.

Thompson said he believes more sportsbook operators and revenue-share tribes will come to support his proposal as they realize that passing on the 2024 online sports betting initiative wouldn’t just mean waiting another two years. It could mean waiting as much as a decade to get real revenue from California online sports betting.

“We will collect signatures and then see where the tribal support stands. Tribes have started to come out in support, and I believe more and more tribes will continue to come out in support as they see there’s nothing bad in it for tribes. You can’t have a no campaign when there is nothing to go against.”

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Matthew Kredell

Matthew Kredell serves as senior lead writer of legislative affairs involving online gambling at PlayUSA. He began covering efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling in 2007 after federal passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act disrupted his hobby of playing small-stakes online poker. He has since interviewed more than 300 lawmakers around the country and written extensively about online gambling legislation. He has led coverage of bills to legalize online gambling in most states. A lifelong Angeleno and USC journalism alum, Matthew started his career working as a sportswriter for a decade at the Los Angeles Daily News. He has written on a variety of topics for Playboy Magazine, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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