California tribes propose ballot measure to legalize sports betting

Tribes in California are behind a new effort to bring legal and regulated betting to California.

On Wednesday, a group of Native American tribes filed a ballot measure for the 2020 election which will amend the state’s constitution to legalize sports betting in California.

Under the measure, which is titled the “California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act,” California’s tribal casinos and racetracks would be allowed to offer land-based sports betting. The measure would also authorize the tribal casinos in California to offer roulette and craps.

The new measure only covers land-based sports betting and does not contain any provisions for online or mobile betting.

Looking closer at the Proposal

Under the proposed measure, sportsbook operators would be required to pay a 10% tax on gross gaming revenue from sports betting which will be put towards education, regulatory costs, public safety and mental health programs.

If the ballot measure is successful, Californians would be able to bet on professional events and collegiate events. However, it would prohibit betting on California college teams and high school sporting events.

The legal age for sports betting will be 21 and it will prohibit the advertising of sports betting to minors.

The tribes behind the new measure

About 18 different California tribes, including the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, support the measure.

In a statement, Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro of Southern California’s Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians said: “Californians should have the choice to participate in sports wagering at highly regulated, safe, and experienced gaming locations.

“We are very proud to see tribes from across California come together for this effort, which represents an incremental but important step toward giving Californians the freedom to participate in this new activity in a responsible manner.”

Steve Stallings, chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, said: “The tribally sponsored initiative filed today to amend California’s Constitution so as to authorize and regulate sports wagering is the best example of well-written and responsible sports betting policy presented to date. A strong, well-regulated gaming industry is of utmost importance to California’s tribal governments and the public. This initiative allows sports wagering in a responsible manner and provides for transparency and strict regulation.”

Tribal chairman Anthony Roberts of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation said: “This initiative represents a viable and measured path that provides Californians with the opportunity to wager on sports in a manner that is responsible and provides for real enforcement penalties for unlawful gambling in the state.”

Tribal groups and sports betting

Several Native American tribes across the country have signalled an interest to get involved with sports betting.

In New Mexico, a handful of tribes offer land-based sports betting under their existing compacts with the state. In October 2018, the Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel near Albuquerque, which is owned and operated by the Tamaya Nation in the Pueblo of Santa Ana, became the first sportsbook to launch in New Mexico.

Earlier this year, the Hilton Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino in Santa Fe and the Isleta Resort and Casino near Albuquerque also launched sports betting in New Mexico.

In August, the Chinook Winds Casino Resort in Lincoln City, Oregon launched its land-based sportsbook and was the first venue in the state to offer sports wagering.

In New York, the Oneida Indian Nation offers sports betting at several venues including the Turning Stone Resort Casino and Point Place Casino in Bridgeport.

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