In the Golden State, a fascinating alliance is taking shape as prospects for regulated sports betting begin to glimmer on the horizon. In a surprising twist, commercial gaming behemoths are seemingly joining forces with California’s most powerful tribal factions to oppose a duo of sports wagering proposals that have recently surfaced.
At the heart of the controversy lies The Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act, which was submitted by Eagle1 Acquisitions Corp. This initiative is now under the spotlight, as the state’s Attorney General Rob Bonta (D-CA) has given the green light for signature collection—a crucial step that could pave the way for the 2024 ballot.
Last year, California’s robust tribal gaming community locked horns with private gaming firms over Propositions 26 and 27, which voters firmly dismissed. However, the current landscape shows signs of shifting allegiances. A cluster of commercial gaming players is rumored to be courting some of the state’s most financially robust tribes, an intriguing scenario given their past opposition to similar measures.
The playing field isn’t level among the more than 70 tribal casinos sprawled across California. Titans like Agua Caliente, Barona, Graton Rancheria, Rincon, and San Manuel stand out for their economic muscle. Together, these tribes wielded a $220 million war chest in 2022, quashing Proposition 27—a sports betting initiative that had the backing of the commercial gaming industry. Today, it seems, these same tribes could be the ones that commercial entities are seeking as allies.
David Katz, a seasoned Jefferies analyst, sheds light on the situation in a recent briefing to clients. “Given the divergent views among the many tribes,” Katz observes, “we expect a handful of the largest tribes to take the helm in this debate.” Katz underscores the significance of commercial and tribal operators discovering common ground in California, a state that has long been a contentious battleground for gaming interests.
Still, the odds remain formidable. To land sports betting on the ballot this year, Eagle1 must rally a staggering 874,641 signatures by April—a Herculean task in itself. But even with a successful signature drive, genuine progress could prove elusive without tribal endorsement. Tribal gaming stakeholders, who wield considerable influence, are eying 2026 as the more realistic timeline for this debate, with mobile betting seen as even more distant.
Should Eagle1 manage to get this issue before voters this year, it is likely to encounter the formidable opposition of both tribal leaders and commercial gaming operators—partners who, together, have the power to ensure The Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act meets the same fate as its predecessors.