CNIGA formally opposes California ‘tribal’ ballot initiative

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When the self-described “tribal” ballot initiative was filed in California last month, it came as a surprise to most tribes. Many reported having no involvement in its development. Now, the biggest tribal organization in the state, California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA), has gone a step further by formally opposing the initiative.

“The entire effort surrounding these initiatives was handled abhorrently by the initiative sponsors. It is hard not to be offended when listening to these individuals speak. This is another example of outside influences trying to divide and conquer Indian tribes. We will not let history repeat itself,” said CNIGA Chairman James Siva.

“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 on the effects to our members and our surrounding communities. Tribal Leaders are the experts, and we will decide what is best for our people. Now that the sponsors have heard directly from tribes that their efforts are not supported, we call on them to drop the initiatives as they have pledged to do if tribes were to oppose them. Our opposition could not be more clear and is irrevocable.”

The group did give the parties behind the ballot measure the opportunity to meet with them. However, they left the group unimpressed, as the group voted to formally oppose the effort.

The men behind the filing are Reeve Collins and Kasey Thompson. A Politico story described them as “a tech bro and a poker bro.” As the Politico story noted, Thompson is offering to purchase and manage what were previously offshore sites, get them clean for the regulated market, and then transfer them over to the tribes in exchange for a cut of the action. Both have had experience working with tribes before during their stints with Pala Interactive.

Thompson also told Politico he has spent months conversing with tribes as well as securing the financing needed to bankroll mounting a ballot initiative. He failed to name specific tribes he has spoken with and no tribes have come forward and voiced their support of the initiative to date.

“It’s not just two random guys submitting a proposal,” Collins told the publication. “It’s a very well thought-out, well-put-together strategy.”

CNIGA is the largest tribal group in the state. As Proposition 26 indicated though, tribes are often on opposite sides of issues in the state when it comes to gaming. Nonetheless, no tribal group has vocally supported the idea and CNIGA is now a very loud and influential opponent of it.