California Tribes Uphold Sports Betting Reign


In the ever-unfolding saga of California’s gaming industry, one enduring principle holds sway: Native American tribes remain the consummate gatekeepers of the state’s sports betting endeavors. The wisdom of this came to the fore in the tumultuous gaming expansion bids of 2022—a year that became a case study in navigating the complex web of California’s gaming laws.

Assemblyman James Ramos of San Bernardino, with the dual distinction of being a legislator and a member of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, has become a vocal advocate for the pivotal role of tribes in the state’s gaming future. Reflecting on a landmark agreement penned in 1999 between then Governor Gray Davis and over fifty tribes, granting them exclusive rights to casino gaming, Ramos is adamant that sports betting follow a similar, respectful trajectory within the tribal framework.

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San Manuel, along with several other influential tribes, illustrated their formidable influence only recently, by successfully opposing Proposition 27—an initiative backed by commercial sportsbook operators and one that highlighted the folly of underestimating tribal unity and resolve.

The failed proposition not only underscores the tribes’ clout but also their unwavering commitment to safeguarding gaming as a tribal enterprise, ring-fenced within the Golden State’s boundaries. This commitment signifies a collective endeavor to ensure gaming’s continuity as a responsible and community-benefiting venture.

Despite certain interest groups’ ambitions to reintroduce sports wagering to California voters, possibly aiming for the 2026 mid-term ballot, the tribes’ readiness to entertain such notions remains contingent on respectful collaboration and alignment with established tribal gaming values. Furthermore, tribal leaders have signaled a phased approach to sports betting—if and when it materializes—with mobile betting taking a backseat to retail sportsbooks. This approach suggests a scenarion where California’s eager bettors may find themselves traveling to tribal casinos, situated afar from urban sprawls, to place their wagers.

While discussions around the future of sports betting in California continue, there’s a parallel universe of gaming that might interest those looking to try their luck immediately. Despite the rigorous debate on brick-and-mortar sports wagering, many enthusiasts are turning to online casinos as their destination of choice.

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