Latest sports betting initiative in California bites the dust

Hand throwing paper away

The two men behind the effort in California have pulled the plug on a potential ballot initiative to legalize sports betting.

Californians may have to wait another two years for legislation to be considered that would authorize sports betting across the Golden State, according to PlayUSA. The wait — due to state legislative sessions being held every two years — stems from a sports betting initiative not garnering enough support from the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) and other tribes around the state.

CNIGA is made up of 52 federally recognized tribal governments across the Golden State.

“This initiative was supposed to be for the tribes but is only causing division,” spokesperson Kasey Thompson told PlayUSA. “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.”

Thompson’s decision temporarily ends a contentious debate regarding wagering in California.

In 2022, two ballot measures that sought to authorize sports betting, Prop 26 and Prop 27, failed at the voting polls during midterms bringing an end to wagering legislation until 2024.

The two ballot measures saw more than $600 million spent on fundraising to support them.

In anticipation of this year’s legislation session, Thompson and his partner Reeve Collins petitioned for an online sports betting provision but would later face backlash from the CNIGA on the issue.

Last month, the CNIGA issued a statement regarding sports wagering after the group formally opposed sports betting initiatives. The group’s stance came after two separate votes on sports wagering with one including an initiative with a proposed amendment. The amendment sought to relocate tax funding for homelessness initiatives to both gaming and non-gaming state tribes.

Despite the amendment, CNIGA’s 52 tribes vehemently opposed the initiatives.

“We are pleased that in the face of widespread tribal opposition, the backers of two initiatives have kept their word and withdrawn what we could only regard as a cynical attempt to legalize sports wagering and online betting in California. These initiatives attempted to use tribes’ good names to cleanse illegal offhsore, online gambling corporations with an appalling track record of malfeasance,” CNIGA Chairman James Siva said in a statement.

“Let this failure also be a warning to others that seek to dubiously enter the California gaming market. Using tribes for your own gain will get you nowhere.”

Sports betting in California could generate “tens of millions” of dollars in additional tax revenue annually, according to a fiscal impact report from the California Attorney General’s office.