SAN DIEGO — DraftKings no longer is targeting 2024 for California sports betting passage. California tribal leaders think that is wise but aren’t ready to forgive and forget a bitter 2022 campaign.
DraftKings CEO Jason Robins recently admitted that California sports betting legalization could be multiple election cycles away.
Speaking with Joe Pompliano on YouTube, Robins said:
“I don’t think it’s a 2024 thing. I’m talking longer term when I think eventually it doesn’t matter what someone wants to spend, it’s just self-evident that this is something California should be doing. That’s not in the next year or two. I think there’s either got to be a deal worked out or we’re just going to be in a stalemate there for at least another cycle or two.”
Robins’ expectations for California have changed greatly since last October. At G2E, with it becoming apparent that online sports betting initiative Prop 27 would fail, Robins said it was “probably more likely in ’24 that this is getting passed.”
Pechanga Chairman Mark Macarro told PlayUSA that Robins should have been more definitive in his statement. He compared it to a running back taking the ball 15 yards laterally but not gaining any yards.
“Had he said nothing is going to happen in ’24, then it would be like OK, you’ve learned your lesson and you know the landscape and that nothing is going to happen.”
Operators turn down invite to speak at Indian Gaming conference
Conference Chair Victor Rocha told PlayUSA that he invited DraftKings and FanDuel representatives to explain themselves to tribal leaders on a panel at the Indian Gaming Association conference Tuesday in San Diego. But Rocha said the operators declined his invitation.
Rocha said he would have created a session for DraftKings and FanDuel representatives. They could have explained what they need to do to move forward with California tribes. Rocha would have moderated the panel.
“I had a million questions, and that’s without ChatGPT,” Rocha quipped.
Rocha did host a panel discussion on California with Macarro, Graton Rancheria Chairman Greg Sarris and Jacob Mejia, who coordinated the Pechanga-led campaign against Prop 27. Rocha believes some FanDuel representatives attended the panel.
“I think this is a hard spot for them after getting their ass beat and probably wouldn’t be a very comfortable experience for them being in front of the tribes and admitting you’re wrong,” Rocha said.
Why Robins doesn’t see California sports betting succeeding in ’24
Prop 27 received just 17.7% of the vote, which Robins called “obviously disappointing.”
But he said the result wasn’t surprising when tribes spent $220 million on advertisments opposing the measure.
“The lesson learned is if anyone wants to drop that kind of spend, it doesn’t matter what the issue is,” Robins said. “You could defeat any ballot initiative pretty much, at least for a period of time.”
Robins now recognizes that sportsbook operators can’t go up against California tribes to get online California sports betting.
“I’d say, as of now, there’s really just too much tribal opposition to imagine us getting anything done. I think some of the tribes, particularly the one that’s been most in opposition, does want online gaming. And I think there’s potentially a compromise to be done there. But we haven’t necessarily found it yet.”
Robins does think there’s a pathway to California sports betting eventually. But it could be 2028.
“That’s my hope, but I think it’s going to take a little time to play out,” Robins said. “I don’t see this being a short-term thing. It’s the biggest prize, so not surprisingly it’s going to be the hardest battle.”
More tribal leaders respond to Robins’ comments
James Siva, vice chairman of Morongo and chair of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA), told PlayUSA that he thought Robins’ comments were a good first step.
“I think they’re starting to learn their lesson. I mean, for them they spent a lot of money and got not even close to the response they wanted or the result they needed. And ultimately he has interest in his shareholders. So I think it would be a wise move on their behalf to kind of regroup.”
Sarris agreed that DraftKings couldn’t justify spending big on another California sports betting initiative campaign so quickly after the 2022 failure. But he said he would not be surprised to see another attempt from sportsbook operators in 2026.
“They’re going to have a hard time right now, let’s say 2024, justifying to the shareholders spending that money immediately again,” Sarris said.
Mejia brought up a survey that Pechanga conducted three weeks ago. It showed that 65% of California voters oppose online sports betting and 47% are strongly opposed. He said those numbers were consistent with surveys prior to the 2022 election cycle.
“So it would be very wise on their part not to come back in 2024 or 2026,” Mejia said.
Siva said the next step is for sportsbook operators to do some outreach with tribes. And perhaps accept some tribal invites such as Rocha’s.
“I think they need to start to repair that relationship,” Siva said. “… I think they’re starting to. But I think coming to events like this, coming to associations like CNIGA, would be a great place where they can address multiple tribes in one setting. If they really want to have a working relationship with tribes, I think that’s going to have to be an absolute necessity on their path.”