Brawl over California proposals pits tribes against each other

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Tribal casinos are the main source of income for native communities in California, but not all tribes have them. (Photo courtesy of Yaamava’ Resort & Casino in San Manuel)

California’s Propositions 26 and 27 would change current regulations for tribal-owned casinos in the state. (Photo courtesy of Yaamava’ Resort & Casino in San Manuel)

Several successful and profitable casinos are located along California’s highways and populated areas, allowing tribal communities and businesses to benefit from the traffic. (Photo courtesy of Yaamava’ Resort & Casino in San Manuel)

LOS ANGELES — California voters will decide next month between two competing ballot measures involving sports betting that would dramatically alter legalized gambling in the state, a fight that underscores the divide between haves and have-nots among the native tribes of the State.

The new chapter in this long-running division comes more than a year after Arizona legalized online sports betting. Now, California could follow suit with Propositions 26 and 27 in the Nov. 8 ballot.

Proposition 26 would allow in-person betting on professional sports at 66 tribal-owned casinos and four racetracks in California. Additionally, it would allow the tribes to offer more Las Vegas-style games, including roulette and craps, not just blackjack, bingo, and slots.

Proposition 27 would go much further by allowing online betting. Players could bet from their computer or smartphone, without ever setting foot in a casino. Although casino-owning tribes are allowed to offer offsite betting, the real beneficiaries appear to be large national betting companies, like DraftKings and FanDuel, which accept bets from a growing number of states, including Arizona. .

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It’s unclear what would happen if the two were approved, a scenario that could end up being settled in a courtroom.

In 2021, Arizona became the 23rd state to legalize online sports betting. In its first year, Arizonans wagered more than $5 billion, exceeding expectations by many.

Dueling proposals have divided California tribes. The Yes on the 26th campaign boasts the support of more than 50 tribes while alleging that the opposing camp, Yes on the 27th, has the support of only three.

“This is a skirmish in a larger war,” said Dan Walters, a columnist for CalMatters, a nonpartisan, nonprofit state news organization. “And it probably won’t be the end of the war. It will probably continue in another form, no matter what happens this year.

According to Walters, the proposal is one of many attempts to curb gambling in California since President Ronald Reagan signed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
of 1988, which allowed federally recognized Native American tribes to operate casinos on their own land.

There are 66 tribal casinos in 28 counties in California, according to the Office of the State Legislative Analyst. Some, including Pala Casino Spa Resort and Pechanga Resort Casino near Temecula and Yaamava’ Resort & Casino in Highland, aim to rival some of the larger casino hotels in Las Vegas.

As large casinos grew in popularity and fueled substantial local economies, Walters said, tensions grew between tribes with casinos and those without. For example, small tribes in more remote areas do not have the same advantages as tribes adjacent to major highways, he said.

“Most tribes don’t benefit from the Indian gambling phenomenon,” Walters said, “but those that have casinos (that) rake in huge amounts of money. There’s no doubt about it. They’re very profitable. And so you have, basically, a jealousy between the haves and have-nots within the Indian community.

Patricia Martz, professor emeritus at California State University, Los Angeles, said much of that revenue already goes to the communities where the casinos are located, but it also goes to nearby tribes for services like housing. , education and health.

The California Legislative Analyst’s Office reports that large tribal casinos give nearly $150 million to smaller tribes that either don’t own casinos or operate casinos with fewer than 350 slot machines. Additionally, the tribes have paid approximately $65 million to support state regulation and gambling addiction programs.

Proposition 27 includes a provision to increase revenue to reduce homelessness and boost mental health services, but Martz said the money would not help much and would remove a source of funds that tribes need to help their members.

“The amount they (Proposition 27) would give really doesn’t make up for the harm the proposal would do,” Martz said. “It seems to me that it’s a no-brainer that people are against it.”

This point is also pushed by the Yes on the 26th, No on the 27th campaign.

“If 27 passes, it’s a blow to tribal self-sufficiency,” spokeswoman Kathy Fairbanks said. “If this were to pass, it would really undermine the tribes and their physical casinos and their ability to support their people. It wouldn’t be good.

Despite multiple solicitations, the Yes on 27 campaign did not respond to comments.

After contacting several casino-owning tribes for comment, Cronkite News was unable to secure an interview or direct statement in time for this article to be published.

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