The voters of California have spoken. They pushed back against two different measures aimed at legalizing California sports betting in the state. Both Prop 26 and Prop 27 failed by wide margins.
Now, it’s already time to look forward at the next steps for California sports betting.
The general consensus among industry experts is simple: The only way for California to have sports betting is for the tribes and sportsbooks to work together. We saw how much they miserably failed when going against each other.
In a Nov. 8 interview with California Casinos, Agua Caliente Tribal Chairman Reid Milanovich stopped short of discussing any sort of compromise. But he did make it clear tribes need to come up with a sports betting plan moving forward.
“I think it’s going to be important for us tribes to sit down and discuss what the future is going to look like,” Milanovich said. “It’s hard to comment about what the plan is. Tribes, including my tribe — we’re very adamant about having plans in place, but it is difficult to as what that plan would look like moving forward this early in the game.”
Prop 26 would have allowed for retail sportsbooks at tribal casinos and the state’s four licensed horse racetracks. Prop 27 would have allowed mobile and online wagering thanks to partnerships between tribes and national sports betting companies like BetMGM, DraftKings or FanDuel.
In total, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians donated $10,251,868.25 to the Yes on 26 and No on 27 campaigns.
Milanovich also shared his thoughts on the results and what this means for the future of sports betting in California.
Agua Caliente Tribal Chairman: Californians Did the Right Thing
Milanovich has been the chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians for a mere seven months. However, he has been knee-deep in the California sports betting debate for a long time and was determined to make sure Prop 27 did not pass in this election cycle.
“We’re standing for the right thing for California,” Milanovich told California Casinos. “There are so many issues with Prop 27. Based on the polling alone, it looks like the voters of California are able to see the bigger picture of what’s going on.”
Tribes who opposed Prop 27 claimed voters don’t want online sports wagering. Milanovich said the voters have made it clear that the future of gaming in California should be left in the hands of the tribes and not out-of-state corporations.
“For the past 20, 30 years, voters in California have supported and entrusted the tribes to offer safe, responsible, highly regulated gaming in California,” he said.
Three tribes came out in support of Prop 27, which indicates that not all of California’s tribal leaders agree when it comes to sports betting in the state and how it should be regulated.
“We have over 100 tribes in California, the most of any state in the country and we’re all different,” Milanovich said. “We have different cultures; we have different business interests.”
For the time being, Milanovich feels that California voters did the right thing for the state on election night.
Could California See Two Sports Betting Measures in 2024?
Prop 27 failed in 2022. However, that doesn’t mean big sports betting operators like DraftKings and FanDuel won’t try this all again in 2024. The same could also be said about supporters of Prop 26.
“More than likely, this will pass in 2024,” DraftKings CEO Jason Robins said about California sports betting at the Global Gaming Expo in October.
FanDuel CEO Any Howe said she agreed with Robins.
Nearly $460 million was raised in support and opposition of Prop 26 and Prop 27. According to the No on 27 campaign, the tribes made it clear that defeating Prop 27 was the No. 1 priority. It took attention away from the tribal-backed Prop 26, which was also on the ballot. They say their campaign spent no money on traditional advertising supporting Prop 26.
“The corporate operators thought they could waltz into California, throw their money around, mislead voters and score a victory. Big mistake,” said Beth Glasco, Vice-Chairwoman of the Barona Band of Mission Indians. “Voters are smart. They saw through the false promises in Prop 27. The corporations completely misjudged California voters and the resolve of our tribal nations.”
With both ballot measures getting rejected by more than 70% of the vote, it seems pretty clear there needs to be just one initiative on the 2024 ballot for any chance of success.