Battle to Control Sports Betting Rages in California

A spectator holds betting tickets in Inglewood, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP.

Different parties are engaged in a massive and expensive battle to control sports betting in the state of California.

Challenging Tribal Control

The current initiative launched by several top-rated sportsbooks — players include FanDuel and BetMGM — represents an endeavor to remove California tribes from the total control that they have been exercising over gaming in California.

In 2000, California voters granted sovereign Native American tribes the legal right to control sports betting in California.

To be clear, sports betting is not legal at the moment in California.

The November 2022 ballot will, however, help determine the direction that sports betting takes in this state and, in the same vein, the extent to which, as they see it, the tribes will maintain both their sovereignty and the success with which they continue to flex their muscles in California politics.

One initiative — not the one supported by FanDuel and BetMGM — has already landed on the ballot.

Per this initiative, one could bet on sports at casinos or horse tracks owned by a tribe.

With this initiative, sports betting would finally be legalized in California.

However, with this initiative, the California tribes are confining sports betting to retail locations. 

They actually go as far to want to delay the advent of online sports betting in the state by several years.

This delay would continue to benefit the many California tribes looking to maintain their unique control over sports betting in California.

Now, the tribes are trying to offer an additional initiative that does allow for online sports betting.

This initiative, which still needs to collect a massive number of signatures to join the aforementioned initiative on the November ballot, would allow the tribes to maintain control over online sports betting.

The Challengers 

The operators, such as BetMGM and FanDuel, located outside of California are investing $100 million to their initiative as the tribes have invested the same amount in order to defeat these operators.

This is a major battle for control over sports betting in California.

These operators do still need a lot of signatures in order for their initiative to be on the November ballot, but in addition to having a lot of money, their endeavor seems to be popular.

This initiative would allow online sports betting to fully flourish in the state, thereby placing California on a level with so many other states in the country where legal online sports betting already thrives — especially given the occurrence of the recent Super Bowl.

One must think of other large states like New York which has experienced tremendous revenue after beginning legal online sports betting.

This initiative would even benefit the tribes who are fighting against it because the revenue that this initiative would help to generate would enrich them. 

The operating fee would be so massive that only a few operators can even afford to participate.

Plus, a lot of money would go towards repairing issues of mental health and homelessness. 

There is thus a lot to say in favor of what the likes of BetMGM and FanDuel are trying to accomplish in California.