Dueling Prop 27 ads in California both take the gloves off

Ad Wars Over Prop 27

Usually when it comes to bringing gambling expansion to the state, those who already benefit from gambling find a way to unite and push the legislation through into law.

For Prop 27, the ballot referendum to bring online sports betting to California, the biggest obstacle may be tribal casinos though. The major tribes worked together to push through a retail sports betting proposition of their own, Prop 26. They are actively campaigning against the proposition backed by major operators like FanDuel and BetMGM as well.

Prop 27 backers allegedly spent $100 million to get enough signatures to get on the ballot. The Hill reports the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, the Pechanga Band of Luisueño Indians, and Wilton Ranchiera will contribute roughly the same amount to combat the proposition.

These budgets will largely go to a glut of television advertisments, some of which are already hitting the airwaves.

With a new video supporting Prop 27 and one out decrying the measure, they each say very different things, but use very similar language.

Yes to Prop 27 video calls out tribal greed

Initially, the “Yes to 27” campaign focused on the fact tax proceeds would go to fight homelessness in California. Local media outlets have criticized some of the claims about helping the homeless. While it would generate hundreds of millions in funds over times, it does not actively create programs or offer solutions despite the name of the proposition being  Legalize Sports Betting and Revenue for Homelessness Prevention Fund Initiative.

The latest ad shifts focus from homelessness, which is still mentioned, to instead point the finger at tribal opponents as the problem:

The spot for Prop 27 claims “wealthy casino tribes who want all the money for themselves” oppose the measure for greedy reasons. Moreover, the ad argues that all tribes would benefit if Prop 27 passed.

This is rooted in truth in that operators would need a tribal partner in order to offer online betting in the state. Unlike Prop 26, this betting could take place anywhere in the state via online betting as opposed to exclusively on tribal land. In that sense, tribes without casinos could get involved while Prop 26 would necessitate a brick and mortar casino.

It is worth noting that the two tribes listed as supporters of Prop 27 on the campaign’s website, Big Valley Rancheria and Middletown Rancheria Pomo Indians of California, both have casinos already, albeit not major resort casinos like some other tribes.

The Middle Rancheria Pomo Indians of California appear front and center in another Yes on 27 ad that positions the measure as something specifically designed to benefit smaller tribes like theirs:

No to Prop 27 claims operators “wrote it for themselves”

The response video to the ad featuring Chairman Jose Moke Simon III immediately calls out what it claims is just one of several misleading elements of the Yes on 27 campaign:

Pointing to the fine print at the end of pro-Prop 27 ad, this one notes that it is funded by DraftKings and FanDuel, not tribes. The oppositional campaign on 27 behind this ad are major tribal casino entities in the state which could theoretically partner with one of these major out-of-state operators.

As the ad states though, these tribes would rather accept a larger of a smaller pie than settle for a small sliver of online sports betting when the majority of profits go back to the operator.

It is also the first time the potentially problematic promotional deductions have made their way into the public campaign against Prop 27.

The proposed regulations in Prop 27 allow for ample tax deductions for promotional credit. Several states like Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Colorado allow for similar deductions, which have resulted in substantially less revenue for the state. Colorado auditors even cautioned regulators to reconsider the framework given the small sum that has come in for the state’s water program.

The debate around promo credit has previously been confined mostly to an industry debate. Now though, it is taking the main stage in a very public battle which will continue to rage on from now until November.