PlayUSA Rewind: Tribes & Commercial Casinos In California Spar Over Sports Betting

Written By Nicholaus Garcia on November 3, 2021

What a week for sports betting! Instead of dragging out this introduction, how about we just get into the meat and potatoes of things?

This week, the highly anticipated arrival of Florida sports betting and in-person registration gets the ax in Illinois. Plus, what the heck is going on in California?

For even more coverage, be sure and follow @VisitPlayUSA | @reporternickg | @brantjames for all the latest insights.

On the rewind:

California tribes and commercial gaming fighting over sports betting

If you are confused about what the heck is going on in California, don’t worry; so is everyone else.

California sports betting has been at the center of numerous debates dating back to 2018. One thing for certain is, sports betting in California is not legal. There is a ball full of red tape to undo before the first bets can be placed. Step one, figuring out who gets to operate sports betting, Native American tribes or commercial casino entities.

We know that two tribes strongly oppose gaming initiatives introduced by commercial gaming companies that would legalize statewide retail and mobile sports betting. Earlier this year, a tribal gaming initiative was approved for the November 2022 ballot. This tribe-backed measure would allow only retail-sports betting at tribal casinos in California.

The takeaway: Everything rest on the results of 2022. On the one hand, an initiative that would allow for tribal sports betting. In another, commercial sports betting. California tribes have a pretty good record when it comes to getting initiatives passed by voters. Their history is currently 8 of 9. The commercial gaming initiative has the support of some heavy hitters like BetMGM, DraftKings and FanDuel. They have already contributed upwards of $16.7 million in campaign funds. Right now, it’s anyone’s ball game.

Florida sports betting arrives

Out of thin air, mobile sports betting in Florida has arrived.

This week, the Seminole Tribe launched the Hard Rock Sportsbook app on Monday, laying the first building block of its inevitable sports betting monopoly kingdom.

Although retail sports betting has yet to begin, Hard Rock did announce a marketing partnership with five pari-mutuels. Per the deal, each of these facilities will get 60% of the profits they bring to the sportsbook app, with the tribe would keeping the remaining 40 percent.

There are still a few lawsuits pending on the legality of sports betting in Florida. Companies like DraftKings and FanDuel are also looking for a way to enter the market. They recently filed a ballot initiative putting mobile sports betting up to voters in 2022.

The takeaway: This is the first of the big three states (California, Florida, Texas) to introduce sports betting. This will most certainly increase the profitability of Hard Rock, which is also waiting to introduce table games at its casinos.


$2 billion in wagers plus five more sportsbooks coming to Virginia

Since January, Virginia sports betting has registered roughly $2 billion in sports betting handle. But, the market is about to get a little bit bigger.

Regulars announced six new operators are set to launch in the coming months. And, by mid-November, Bally Bet will be the latest addition to the VA sports betting market.

Currently, there are eight online sportsbook apps in Virginia. They are FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, Caesars, BetRivers, Barstool, WynnBet and Unibet.

The takeaway: There could be 15 online sportsbooks in Virginia before March Madness. This means the 49.5% market share controlled by FanDuel has the potential to shrink.

In-person registration gets the boot in Illinois

Finally, Illinois residents will no longer have to travel to a casino to sign up for a sports betting account. However, in-person registration doesn’t expire until March 5. Additionally, lawmakers passed an amendment to allow for wagering on collegiate sports by the time the NCAA Tournament comes around.

Each of these new additions to IL sports betting should be a warm welcome for residents boosting dividends for operators instantaneously. The amendment awaits a signature from Gov. JB Pritzker.

The takeaway: Bettors have been screaming for remote registration since the launch of sports betting. They had a taste of it, then it was stripped away overnight. The return can’t come soon enough, making operators like the Barstool Sportsbook, DraftKings and FanDuel thrilled operators.

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Market Teaser

This is a first for Market Teaser — last week’s company, Scientific Games Corporation, is back once again. The company has reached an agreement to sell its lottery business for over $6 billion to Brookfield Business Partners.

Scientific Games Corporation

$SGMS | $82.60 | -3.59% change

  • The deal is expected to close by Q2 2022. At this point, roughly 130 “government and non-government” lottery entities will be managed by Brookfield. Scientific Games also sold off its sports betting armOpenBet, to Endeavor Group Holdings for $1.2 billion. According to OnlinePokerReport, the company is pivoting to focus more on iGaming with its platform OpenGaming.

From the archives

Remember to follow @VisitPlayUSA | @reporternickg | @brantjames for even more insights.

Photo by Eric Risberg / Associated Press
Nicholaus Garcia Avatar
Written by
Nicholaus Garcia

Nick has had stints in Chicago and Washington, D.C., writing about politics, financial markets, and sports betting. He graduated from Texas Tech University and completed his master's degree in journalism at Columbia College Chicago.

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