California Tribal Leader: Prop 26 vs. Prop 27 Comes Down to Future of Online Casinos

The reason California tribes are fighting so hard against Prop 27 might not be tied to sports betting at all. That’s according to Victor Rocha, editor of and Conference Chairman of the Indian Gaming Association.

“They’re trying to steal our future. This isn’t about sports betting — it’s about online gaming,” Rocha said during a panel at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas on Tuesday. “That’s why we’re fighting like this could be our last fight. Because it could be.”

By online gaming, Rocha was referring to online casinos, which are legal in seven states. They offer slots, table games, and everything you’d expect from a retail casino via an online platform.

Although tribes would stand to add a few hundred millions of dollars in sports betting revenue if Prop 26 passes and California sports betting launches, those figures pale in comparison to their casino gambling revenues. Combined, California Indian casinos generate roughly $9 billion in revenue ever year.

Those casinos would survive if private companies launched online sportsbooks.

But they might not survive if those private companies could also launch online casinos.

Many of the same companies that want to offer sports betting in California — DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, BetRivers, etc. — also offer online casinos. So industry experts see legalized online sports betting as a gateway of sorts to legalized online casinos.

During a Sept. 7 debate with Yes on 27 spokesperson Nathan Click, Yes on 26 spokesperson Kathy Fairbanks suggested compromise between tribes and the sports betting companies could be the ultimate route for something getting done down the line to let residents bet on sports in California.

Tuesday at G2E, Rocha seemed to indicate he doesn’t feel the same way.

“We don’t want their help,” he said. “They don’t get it and they’re saying they’re going to be back in 2024.

“They are not going to be our partners anymore. They’re going to become our service providers. We’re going to put them back in that box.”

READ MORE: Would Tribal-Owned Online Sportsbooks Be Competitive in California?

Will Prop 26 or Prop 27 Pass?

Prop 26 would legalize sports betting in-person only at Indian casinos and the state’s four licensed horse racetracks. Prop 27 would legalize only online and mobile sports betting.

Neither are expected to pass in the November 2022 election.

In a recent poll conducted by the University of California at Berkeley, only 27% of likely California voter respondents said they supported Prop 27. And just 31% said they supported Prop 26.

That poll came a few weeks after a Public Policy Institute of California poll found that 34% of likely California voter respondents were in favor of Prop 27. That result, among other things, caused the Prop 27 campaign to shift ad strategies and pull most of their TV commercials in major metropolitan areas.

About the Author

Matthew Bain

Matthew Bain started as News Editor and Content Manager at California Casinos in 2022. Before that, he spent six years as a sports reporter and then deputy sports editor for the Des Moines Register, during which time he won nine statewide journalism awards, including the Genevieve Mauck Stoufer Outstanding Young Iowa Journalists Award. As deputy sports editor, Matthew oversaw the Register's recruiting coverage while also innovating the outlet's high school sports coverage. Matthew graduated from San Diego State and grew up in California, but he's somehow a Boston Celtics fan. Long story.