MGM, GVC Strike Sports Betting Partnership With California’s UAIC Tribe

Posted on October 9, 2018 - Last Updated on October 10, 2018

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MGM-GVC Interactive, a joint venture between the two companies, has entered into a partnership that is the first of its kind. The joint venture reached a deal with the United Auburn Indian Community (UAIC), a California Native American tribe.

The UAIC owns the Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln, California. The deal would allow the tribe to leverage MGM and GVC’s immense experience and technological resources to provide sports betting at the casino.

“We greatly admire the success the UAIC has had with its Thunder Valley Casino Resort, and look forward to adding to that success,” said Adam Greenblatt, director of corporate development and strategy for GVC, in a press release. “The potential of this partnership is significant for MGM-GVC.”

Sports betting partnership has an obvious problem

Clearly, both sides are excited about the possibilities this partnership brings. The UAIC gains access to one of the top gaming companies in the world. MGM-GVC gets a crucial inroad to the most populous state in the US.

Unfortunately, sports betting is not legal in California yet. In fact, there are signs that bringing sports betting to the Golden State may be a rather difficult proposition.

“It is not yet clear if California will authorize sports betting or interactive games generally, said Gene Whitehouse, UAIC’s chairman. “But, with the overturn of PASPA possibly opening the door for sports betting, our Tribe wants to be well-situated, and this agreement with the national leader in the field does just that.”

Whitehouse’s reference to interactive games is particularly relevant to this agreement. MGM-GVC will also provide branding and proprietary technology to the UAIC for online casino games and online poker. Of course, neither of those avenues are legal in California, either.

Part of the problem in the state is the competing perspectives of different stakeholders. California’s tribal casinos, racetracks and cardrooms all have very different opinions about whether sports betting should become legal.

As a result, there is no set timeframe for when this deal between MGM-GVC and the UAIC might pay dividends. Earlier this year, a bill to legalize sports betting in the Golden State failed to reach the November ballot.

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New Mexico teaches us to stay vigilant and hopeful

However, it’s possible that the people of California still have something to say about the matter. A group called Californians for Sports Betting submitted a petition to the California attorney general to put the issue to a vote.

It is unlikely that the petition will make it on to this year’s ballot. The next bite at the apple may have to wait until 2020. Then again, if the events in New Mexico this week are any clue, things can happen quite rapidly.

Seemingly out of nowhere, New Mexico is set to become the sixth state in the US to offer sports betting to its citizens. Las Vegas company USBookmaking made an announcement yesterday. It said it would be opening a sportsbook in the Santa Ana Star Casino next week.

Much like California, New Mexico has not legalized sports betting. However, USBookmaking president Vic Salerno claims that the state’s tribal compact with the Tamaya allows for sports betting.

New Mexico’s attorney general will make a statement about the legality of the move on Oct. 9. Regardless, it might be worthwhile for all compact-holding tribes to examine the fine print in their agreements.

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Bart Shirley

Bart Shirley is a writer and poker player from Houston, Texas. Bart writes about the NJ online casino industry and US online poker. He has a master's degree in business administration from Texas Christian University and a degree in English from Texas A&M.

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