Online gambling measure would harm Indian tribes

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In summary

A broad coalition of Indian tribes is unified against the online gambling measure and in favor of in-person sports betting.



By Raymond Welch

Raymond Welch is president of the Barona Band of Mission Indians in San Diego County.

Greg Sarris, special for CalMatters

Greg Sarris is the Tribal Chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria in Sonoma County.

Over the past 20 years, California voters have repeatedly supported Indian tribes as we seek to allow and maintain gaming on tribal lands.

The Indian game has fostered tribal self-reliance – supporting education, infrastructure, healthcare, housing, and other vital resources for our people.

In return, Indian Tribes have affirmed our commitment to California – to operate well-regulated gaming on Tribal Lands that benefits Indian people and all Californians. Tribal casinos generate nearly 125,000 jobs for Californians, $20 billion for state and local economies, and $1.3 billion in revenue sharing with state and local governments each year.

In 2018, the United States Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on sports betting, leaving states to license and regulate sports betting within their borders. Next November, California voters will likely be faced with some important choices regarding the future of gambling in the Golden State: whether or not, and how much, to allow sports betting.

There are currently two ballot measures that qualify or are likely to qualify for the November 2022 ballot on this topic – a third measure recently came into circulation. When narrowed down to the essentials, the choice before voters will likely be:

  • Allow regulated in-person sports betting at Indian casinos, which have a proven track record of operating safe games; Where
  • Allowing out-of-state gaming companies to control and deliver online and mobile sports betting – turning virtually every phone, tablet and laptop in California into a gaming device.

We think the choice is simple and we’re confident voters will agree.

The person tribal sports betting measurement, called California Legalize Sports Betting on American Indian Lands Initiative, is inspired by the successful approach that Indian tribes have used to operate games for more than 20 years. The measure of the ballot will implement proven safeguards to ensure safe, responsible, in-person sports betting by requiring individuals to be 21 years of age or older and physically present when placing bets. This prevents minors from playing.

It will generate new jobs and create new economic opportunities that will uplift tribal and non-tribal communities; help non-gambling tribes by increasing funds distributed through inter-tribal and state pacts; and will increase state revenue by tens of millions of dollars annually to support state priorities.

Conversely, another measure, funded by DraftKings and FanDuel, would legalize online betting and put the future of sports betting in California in the hands of out-of-state online gaming companies. Their measure would authorize the largest gaming expansion in state history – allowing virtually anyone, anywhere, anytime to gamble.

Studies show that this unprecedented access would lead to more gambling, addiction and crime problems. In fact, the Reports from the National Problem Gambling Council online sports bettors are up to five times more likely to develop gambling problems than other types of gamblers.

Experts warn that the accelerated game speed, easy access and immediate nature of mobile gaming is especially appealing to young people and people prone to impulsive gambling.

This measure by online operators lacks essential safeguards to prevent underage gambling, and there is no sure way to prevent children from placing bets online using false identification or their parents’ information.

Acknowledging that California voters are strongly opposed to legalizing online gambling, online gambling companies are shrewdly trying to promote their measure as a “solution” to homelessness – by allocating a portion of the revenue gambling for this purpose.

But many experts, including from UCLA’s Play Studies Program, quote gambling addiction as an important contributing factor to becoming homeless and maintaining a cycle of homelessness.

It is simply bad policy to fund homelessness and mental health programs by legalizing a massive expansion of online gambling that will only increase addiction and financial distress.

A broad coalition of Indian tribes is unified in our opposition to the measurement of out-of-state gambling companies and in favor of the in-person tribal sports betting act. We are confident that voters will stand with California’s Indian tribes for the benefit of all, as they have for the past 20 years.

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