Despite previous intentions to lead the effort, the Pala Band of Mission Indians was not part of the California sports betting initiatives filed Friday.
PlayUSA confirmed Tuesday with Pala that the tribe’s absence from the proposals meant it did not sanction the filings.
Doug Elmets, spokesperson for Pala, provided a brief statement:
“The Pala Band of Mission Indians is not involved in either of the initiatives.”
The California sports betting initiative effort is led by individuals who had previous business dealings with the tribe through Pala Interactive, an internet gaming platform they helped create for the tribe in 2013. That venture proved successful when Boyd Gaming bought Pala Interactive from the tribe last year for $170 million.
Reeve Collins, whose name is on the filings as the contact person, and Kasey Thompson, the point person in reaching out to tribes on the initiatives, worked together on Pala Interactive. But they aren’t currently affiliated with the tribe, Pala Interactive or Boyd Gaming.
Tribe drops out of initiative filings
As previously reported by PlayUSA, Pala had told other tribes of its plans to participate in a sports betting initiative.
On Oct. 8, Pala Chairman Robert Smith sent a text to tribal leaders, forwarded to PlayUSA, that read:
“Heads up Pala Band of Mission Indians is issuing a press release tomorrow sports wagering initiative for 2024, look forward to working with tribes!”
Many California tribal leaders, who were attending the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas that week, reacted negatively to the news. This included Mark Macarro, chairman of the influential Pechanga Band of Indians.
Representatives of the state’s other two most influential tribes, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and Morongo Band of Mission Indians, had joined Macarro in saying they didn’t expect any California sports betting initiatives filed this election cycle. They didn’t see any such effort as viable following the fierce battle on the 2022 ballot.
Smith ended up not following through with the promised press release at G2E. And when the California Nations Indian Gaming Association invited Smith to present the proposal to its membership last week, he declined.
With time running out to qualify an initiative for the 2024 election, proponents moved forward with the filing with the hope of garnering tribal support in the next month.
In a letter emailed to tribal leaders following the filing, Thompson wrote: “We do not plan to proceed unless we have the full support of the California tribes.”
Proponents trying to round up tribal support
Although Smith ultimately opted not to put his and the tribe’s names on the initiatives, that doesn’t necessarily mean Pala won’t support the effort.
Sources indicate that proponents of the initiatives met with multiple tribes recently to pitch their proposals.
Given that Pala embraced the proposal previously, it could come back on board if the initiatives gain support from other tribes.