The fight about how to legalize sports betting in California continued this week, as one mayor is taking heat from tribes and a board of supervisors threw its support behind a tribal initiative.
Eight months before voters will at least decide whether to allow sports wagering at brick-and-mortar locations, politicians and other groups up and down California continue to weigh in. Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer supports an online proposal that would allow for statewide digital wagering, even though a proposed initiative for that has not qualified for the ballot yet — which led to the tribes calling him out in a set of mailers this week.
Three different groups filed proposals last year that would allow for statewide mobile wagering. And while it’s not clear which proposal Dyer is aligning with, Fresno residents have been getting mailers sent by the tribes that, according to the San Joaquin Valley Sun, include the following:
“Mayor Dyer endorsed a ballot measure sponsored by out-of-state online gambling corporations that would turn virtually every cell phone, tablet and laptop into a gambling device.”
“Mayor Dyer: Please protect our kids! Reject the Corporate Online Gambling Proposition.”
Ads say tribes are caretakers of gaming
The sentiments in the mailer reflect those in a television advertisement put out by a group called Californians for Tribal Sovereignty and Safe Gaming, which is backed by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians, encouraging Californians to support tribal gaming, but not commercial gaming.
Fresno, the fifth most populous city in California, is located near the foot of the Sierras in the San Joaquin Valley and is home to two card rooms.
Farther north, the board of supervisors in Solano County, which borders Sacramento County (home of the state capital), voted this week to support the tribal retail initiative. The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, which owns the Cache Creek Casino in Brooks, has a reservation in Solano County.
It's going to be a scorcher this summer https://t.co/ZGlsl3DgWp
— Victor Rocha (@VictorRocha1) April 6, 2022
According to the Daily Republic, Supervisor Erin Hannigan told her peers that she felt it was important to support the initiative, as it would be good not only for the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, but for non-gaming tribes and surrounding communities in the state as well.
The question of legal sports betting has already become a divisive topic in California. The tribes, through their television ads, are trying to sell Californians on the idea that they have been the caretakers of gaming in the state for decades, and only they should be trusted to move forward with an expansion of gaming. The only wagering initiative already on the ballot is backed by the tribes and would allow for betting at brick-and-mortar tribal casinos and four racetracks. It would also allow the tribes to begin offering certain ball or dice games, including craps and roulette.
Who supports tribes and who doesn’t?
Commercial operators, meanwhile, are trying to qualify an initiative that would allow for statewide mobile wagering. A group of seven operators, led by BetMGM, DraftKings, and FanDuel, are circulating a petition that would leave it to voters to decide if digital wagering tethered to tribal casinos should be legalized.
The deadline to collect signatures is approaching, and the political committee running the campaign has consistently said it will make the deadline with the required number of signatures. According to a spokesman, the committee is seeing “strong support for our measure and the benefits it would provide California.” The group released its own advertisements across multiple digital platforms late last month:
The initiative is put forward by the commercial operators as “complementary” to the tribal referendum, and both could pass. Operators say they have been trying for months to bridge the gap between their business interests and the tribes’ goals.
In the past few months, various groups have taken sides, with a coalition of card-room cities and a group of veterans’ organizations sharing their opposition to the tribes’ retail-only initiative, and the NAACP in early March announcing its support of the tribes’ referendum.
Furthermore, columnist George Boardman of The Union in Nevada County wrote this week that a retail-only wagering situation isn’t in the best interest of consumers, but that “the argument is not about the morality of sports betting, but rather who gets to collect your bets.”