Three California Tribes Submit Comments Highlighting Issues With Sports Betting Initiative

Written By Matthew Kredell on November 29, 2023 - Last Updated on January 23, 2024
California Tribes Submit Comments On Sports Betting Initiative

Three California Indian tribes that filed an online sports betting initiative last election cycle submitted comments to the state attorney general opposing a similar initiative filed last month.

The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Rincon Tribe of Luiseno Indians and Wilton Rancheria highlighted two problematic provisions in the filing. Monday was the final day for comments.

Other than those two provisions, the tribes said the new sports betting initiative is essentially identical to the one they filed in the fall of 2021.

According to the letter:

“The backers of the Walz Initiative hijacked the Tribal Online & In-Person Sports Wagering Initiative to enable the illegal multibillion dollar offshore online sports betting industry to monetize and profit from their operations. As a result, our three tribes oppose this measure and believe the voters should be made aware of its true intent.”

The initiative is backed by Pala Interactive co-founders Kasey Thompson and Reeve Collins and their new venture Eagle 1 Acquisition Co. The tribes call it the Walz Initiative because Ryan Tyler Walz signed the petition. Thompson explained that Walz is an associate who could submit the initiative as a registered California voter.

Provisions opposed by California tribes

Although the tribes filed the Tribal Online & In-Person Sports Wagering Initiative ahead of the 2022 election, they submitted it for signature verification for the 2024 election. However, it failed to qualify.

Proponents of the new initiative used the same language supported by many tribes previously. But they presented a proposal to work with tribes in placing a major portion of the current illegal offshore sports betting market operating in the state under tribal control.

The opposed provisions address this area.

Tribes wrote that they included strict standards for background checks and suitability standards. However, the Walz Initiative includes the following parenthetical addition exempting assets transferred to tribes from illicit offshore online gaming operations:

“(such presumption of suitability to extend to the assets owned by such tribe that are held for use in such tribe’s online sports wagering operations).”

Furthermore, the tribes attest they included strict standards requiring equipment and operating systems to be independently tested and certified by the industry’s premier testing laboratory. The tribes oppose the following addition exempting equipment and operating systems from these regulations for two years:

“Ramp-Up Period. The foregoing provisions of this Section 5.3 shall not apply with respect to an Operator Tribe’s Sports Wagering System that has been approved for use by any Tribal Gaming Agency upon commencement of such Operator Tribe’s offering of online sports wagering and for the first two years thereafter (the “Ramp- Up Period”), it being understood and agreed that any such Sports Wagering System approved for use by any such Tribal Gaming Agency shall be presumed to have satisfied each of the conditions set forth in this Section 5.3 for, and through, the Ramp-Up Period.”

Proponents have time to amend proposal

The tribes call on the attorney general to consider and incorporate their comments in the title and summary for the petitions, due Jan. 2.

“This problematic new language advances the agenda of offshore online gaming operators to exploit and monetize their illicit assets. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) was enacted, in part, to shield the tribal gaming industry from organized crime and other corrupting influences, to ensure that Indian tribes are the primary beneficiaries of their gaming operations, and to assure that gaming is conducted fairly and honestly.

Rigorous regulation and oversight are critical to ensure the integrity and honesty of tribal gaming. Any summary of the initiative should alert voters that the Walz Initiative exempts these offshore operators from the rigorous licensing, testing and certification standards set forth in the Tribal Online & In-Person Sports Wagering Initiative.”

The tribes commented on the initial filing, which isn’t necessarily the final version of the initiative. Proponents have until Dec. 4 to amend the initiative and have said they will incorporate tribal feedback in doing so.

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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

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