Sports Betting Operators Announce Opposition To California Initiative

Written By Matthew Kredell on January 9, 2024 - Last Updated on February 15, 2024
Major Sportsbook Operators Oppose California Initiative

Four top sports betting operators joined prominent California Indian tribes in asking proponents of a California sports betting initiative to end their campaign.

Members of the Sports Betting Alliance officially announced their opposition to the sports betting initiative Tuesday. The Alliance includes FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and Fanatics.

Sports Betting Alliance spokesperson Nathan Click said in a statement:

“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. 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.

Operators say no to CA sports betting initiative

Click provided three reasons for the Alliance opposition:

  1. Without significant and widespread tribal support this initiative will fail and set back productive conversations for several years.
  2. This initiative is constructed to prevent the market from reaching anything close to its potential to the detriment of all stakeholders — commercial operators, Californians, gaming and RSTF tribes — while enabling the unregulated illegal market to continue to thrive.
  3. The original premise of building a business based on customers acquired illegally through offshore operations falls significantly short of the regulatory standards to which our membership adheres.

Proponents said they needed operator support to move forward

The initiative is backed by Kasey Thompson and Reeve Collins of Eagle 1 Acquisition Co. They have spoken of a plan, which is not part of the initiative, to facilitate the cleansing and transfer to Indian tribes of the California business of offshore sports betting sites currently operating illegally in the state.

Last week, Thompson told PlayUSA they would begin collecting signatures to qualify the initiative. However, they wouldn’t finish collecting signatures unless sports betting operators contributed to the funding.

“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.”

However, responding to the opposition announcement, Thompson claimed that he hadn’t asked operators to contribute money to the campaign. He also confusingly said operators oppose the initiative because it is meant to benefit tribes, but that they would support the proposal if they saw more tribal support.

Thompson’s statement in full:

“That is natural for them to come out against as we are the most tribal initiative ever that puts 100% ownership and control in tribal hands. I have not asked any of those companies for a nickel. Not one nickel in a sports betting bill, so you can only imagine how tribal forward it is.

“There is no mention of anything inappropriate in the bill, nor anything exclusive to Eagle 1, and to suggest otherwise is preposterous. I think they do not see the majority public tribal support, but would get behind a mobile bill like this if they did.”

Operators improving relations with California tribes

The sports betting operators that came out in opposition to the proposed initiative were part of a group that funded online sports betting Prop. 27 last election. Following a hostile campaign with the top California gaming tribes, the initiative was overwhelmingly defeated by voters.

Since then, operators have been trying to mend relations with California tribes to work together in the future.

Last month, 28 gaming tribes representing 99% of the money spent opposing Prop 27 wrote a letter to Thompson, Collins and Eagle 1 opposing their proposal and asking them to step down.

Operators were happy to work with tribes to come out against an effort they didn’t like anyway.

By joining with the tribes to oppose this initiative, operators could be taking a small step toward working together on a future California sports betting effort.

Photo by PlayUSA
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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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