California Indians Trade Group Officially Opposes Sports Betting Proposals

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A pair of proposed initiatives to promote regulated California sports betting have been officially opposed by a key association of the state’s Tribal gaming operators.

The proposed Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act was reported on last month, with much speculation on who exactly was behind the plans.

It has now been revealed that two entrepreneurs, Kasey Thompson and Reeve Collins, are behind the proposals. Thompson was the cofounder of Pala Interactive, the online arm of California’s Pala Band of Mission Indians, and Collins is the owner of the cryptocurrency stablecoin developer USD Tether.  

The California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA), which represents 52 member Tribes, said it has not been involved in discussions on the proposals.

Now, its members have voted to officially oppose the initiatives after hearing from backers of both ideas.

“California Tribes have been successfully engaged in the gaming market for more than four decades. This didn’t happen by mistake, nor without careful consideration on the effects to our members and our surrounding communities,” CNIGA Chairman James Silva said in a statement.

“Tribal Leaders are the experts, and we will decide what is best for our people.”

Irrevocable Opposition from Tribal Leaders

CNIGA has expressed clear and strong disapproval of the proposed sports betting initiatives, particularly criticizing the approach taken by Thompson and Collins.

The association’s chairman, James Siva, condemned the strategy employed by the nontribal proponents, describing it as distasteful and divisive.

He said that the proposal was announced before involving key Tribal stakeholders in its development, which Siva likened to historical exploitation tactics against Native Tribes.

“Now that the sponsors have heard directly from Tribes that their efforts are not supported, we call on them to drop the initiatives, as they have pledged to do if Tribes were to oppose them. Our opposition could not be more clear and is irrevocable,” Silva said.

CNIGA’s position is pivotal, given its role as the cooperative voice for California Tribal casino enterprises.

Tribal gambling venues are a multibillion business sector across the U.S., and Tribal California casinos are among the most profitable of them all. That means the Tribes’ official position on any gambling issue is highly influential in the state.

In this case, the association’s strong opposition indicates that any sports wagering propositions that disregard existing Tribal compacts and consensus are likely doomed from the outset.

Furthermore, CNIGA highlighted the apparent negligence of Thompson and Collins in acknowledging voter fatigue on this issue, as previous similar propositions in 2022 were soundly rejected by voters.

Entrepreneurs’ Perspective

Thompson and Collins were described as a “tech bro” and a “poker bro” by a recent Politico article.

Their proposal involves moving assets from current U.S.-facing offshore sportsbooks into Tribal control, with Thompson managing the transfers for a cut of the proceeds.

However, no Tribe has publicly confirmed engagement with their team, and the Tribes have now soundly rejected the idea.

The CNIGA and other Tribal leaders have previously said they are open to collaboration on sports betting initiatives. However, they insist on being primary consultants and leaders in any related proposals.

Their strategy favors a gradual approach, starting with establishing California retail sportsbooks within their casinos before expanding to digital platforms.

This goes against Collins and Thompson’s quick setup plan. Couple that with last week’s premature announcement of the idea without Tribal consultations, and it seems their proposal is now just another to add to those dead in the waters of California sports betting.

The California Tribes’ more cautious outlook on sports betting also stands in contrast with one of the most famous U.S. Tribal gaming operators, the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

The Hard Rock International owners recently surprised the U.S gambling scene by unceremoniously relaunching Hard Rock Bet for Florida online sports betting – despite an ongoing legal battle that could shortly shut the operation down again.

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