Divide And Rules, California Sports Betting Dies Another Day

That old saw, ‘if California were a country, it would be the fifth richest in the world’, runs back and forth; reminding us that The Golden State, with its wealth, population and fabulous teams, is indubitably the richest prize in North American sports betting.

But still; in deeply paradoxical, Conservative, yet anything-goes California; the logic refuses to compute.

The Big Hitters: FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and their drones, and no doubt iGaming arrivistes ESPN BET (this after all is the home state of their owner Walt Disney), all want a slice of the action.

But, once again, they’ve fallen into the historical evasion of discounting, nay ignoring, the will of the Native American people — who in this case hold the trump hand because by legal tender they have a legally-sanctioned monopoly on all forms of gambling in the state; initially ceded to them as a financial sop for all the Indian lands that were stolen but now worth billions, and billions, of dollars.

Only last October two new gambling bill initiatives were filed in California that would have extended the monopoly on in-person and online sports betting to the registered gambling tribes in the state.

The first proposed bill, tentatively called The Tribal Gaming Protection Act, was a weird mash-up that would have allowed the state governor to directly hand out online sports betting licences to the federally-recognised tribes.

A second initiative, dubbed The Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act, would have specifically prohibited non-tribal entities from entering the sports gambling space — unless in partnership with Native American stakeholders.

Trouble was, the sponsors of said legislative bills forgot to ask the tribes what they thought about the proposals.

Bill Killer

Unbelievable you may say. Yet regrettably totally in keeping with the historic record when wealth, potential wealth and Native American peoples are concerned; as so brilliantly highlighted in Martin Scorsese’s latest movie: ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’.

“The entire effort surrounding these initiatives was handled abhorrently by the initiative sponsors,” charged James Siva, Chair, of CNIGA, the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, which represents 52 federally-recognised tribal governments in the state.

“[They] failed to consult with tribal nations before publication.

“This is another example of outside influences trying to divide and conquer Indian tribes. We will not let history repeat itself.

“California tribes have been successfully engaged in the gaming market for more than four decades.

“This didn’t happen by mistake, nor without careful consideration to the potential effects to our members and our surrounding communities.

“We Tribal Leaders are the experts. And we will decide what is best for our people.

“[These] initiatives are a cynical and deceptive attempt to hijack–for personal gain–the goodwill tribes have earned and maintained for decades with the people of California.

“The disingenuous nature of these initiatives should be a red flag to every tribal government as well as every voter in California,” Siva, (pictured left), continued.

“These measures are attempting to divide and conquer tribes by pushing an initiative that attempts to legitimise illicit off-shore operators and putting our governments at risk.

“The opposition coming from Indian Country is loud and it is clear. Tribes will not be distracted by outside influences making empty promises.

“Indian Country will stand firm in protecting our sovereign rights and integrity. We call on the proponents to do the [honourable] thing and withdraw these flawed initiatives.”

The Eagle Has Crash Landed

CNIGA’s adamantine opposition to the proposals failed to deter the backers of the second initiative, the proposed Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act, who now broke cover in the guise of the so-called Eagle1 Acquisitions Corp.

In early December last year they came back with a number of amendments in a bid to gain full California tribal gaming support.

Tribes, and their associated welfare funds, would now get a massive hike in their share of the revenue from legalised sports betting in the state; which Eagle1 posited would see an annual handle of approximately US$60 billion and subsequent revenue of around US$3 billion-a-year.

It would be easier for tribes to become their own affiliates. And they would not have to pay anything towards the financial cost of passing the bill into law.

“We took a proposal that had the support of more than 70 tribes and was one of the most tribal-focused propositions ever, made amendments based on tribal and regulator feedback and updated it for today’s legal landscape,” said Kasey Thompson, the chief architect of the proposed sports betting bill.

“What we are trying to do is create something that works for everyone. Tribal support is paramount to the success of this effort and we will not put it on the ballot without approval from a majority of the tribes.”

New light was shed on the bill, once opaque, which was now revealed to have the backing of Pala Interactive, an iGaming operator, founded by the Pala Band of Indians in 2013.

“We removed language we were told did not work for the tribes and for the first time have created something inclusive for all,” said Reeve Collins, Co-founder and CEO of Pala Interactive.

“This includes tribes, land-based casinos, regulators, out-of-state operators and the people of California.

“This is a forward-thinking and tribal-centric proposition that finally paves the way for sports betting in California.

‘Morons’ Out of Space

“These acts are designed to protect CA tribes and CA taxpayers who are seeing their dollars go to offshore unregulated gaming sites.” Collins claimed.

A certain Ryan Tyler Walz, a man not hitherto much noted in gambling industry circles, was also identified as a key mover behind Eagle1.

The proposition–aiming to bring sports betting to California, where two other competing 2022 propositions, one Indian-backed, the other supported by FanDuel and DraftKings had failed–needed to start collecting the 900,000-odd signatures of registered state voters this month, January, to make the legislative deadline.

But it was killed with one single damning comment from Victor Rocha (pictured, right), Conference Chair of the Indian Gaming Association, who tweeted: “This thing is so dead. Kasey Thompson & Ryan Tyler Walz are morons.

“You heard it here first.”

‘It’ certainly did for Kasey Thompson. He has now retreated from the California sports betting field of battle.

“This initiative was supposed to be for the tribes, but is only causing division,” said the flightless Eagle1.

“That was never my intent. I see now the needed unity is not coming.

“And so I’m standing good to my word and not moving forward. I’m pulling it in full.”

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