california tribes sports betting mark macarro

Mark Macarro, Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians Tribal Chairman.

A California Tribes’ Sports Betting petition is gaining signatures in order to secure its place on a future ballot – Back in November, a coalition of 18 Native American tribes which operate casino gambling in California came together to back a tribal-only sports betting initiative.

At the time, that coalition – led by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians – submitted the paperwork with California Attorney General’s office to pursue a petition drive required to add sports betting to the November ballot.

In doing so, Pechanga chairman Mark Macarro issued a statement explaining why local tribes have recently embraced the idea of establishing a regulated sports wagering industry:

“Californians should have the choice to participate in sports wagering at highly regulated, safe and experienced gaming locations.

We are very proud to see tribes from across California come together for this effort, which represents an incremental but important step toward giving Californians the freedom to participate in this new activity in a responsible manner.”

California Tribes Report Strong Support for Sports Betting 

Under state law, the tribes must gather 997,139 signatures from registered voters across California – a number derived from 8 percent of the most recent gubernatorial election turnout.

The tribal coalition – which also includes the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the Barona Band of Mission Indians, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians – began circulating petitions for their proposed California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act on January 23.

And as they plan to submit their petition on April 21 to satisfy a state deadline, tribal spokesman Jacob Meija recently told Legal Sports Report that the signature drive has been successful thus far:

“We’re off to a really strong start.

We’ve got until the end of April to gather the signatures we need.”

As he told the sports betting industry news outlet, Meija reports that the tribes have already accumulated more than 600,000 signatures. That puts the tribes right around 60 percent in terms of the requisite signature count with over two months to go – but they’re pushing for a much higher total when April arrives.

Based on the state law’s random sampling verification process, the California Secretary of State’s office must confirm that 110 percent of submitted signatures are accurate and eligible.

In light of that provision, Meija told Legal Sports Report that the tribe’s objective is to top the 1.5 million plateau.

Tribes Not Looking to Legalize Online Sportsbooks… For Now

california tribes sports betting bill

Sports betting taking place in a casino.

If eventually added to the November ballot and approved by a majority of voters, the tribes’ sports betting referendum would limit legal sportsbooks to casinos located on reservation land.

That controversial construction would effectively box out commercial card clubs operated by non-tribal companies, venues which also act as competitors to tribal casinos.

While the tribe vs. card club debate continues to play out, Meija told Legal Sports Report that his coalition is taking a pragmatic approach to its legalization effort. Rather than seek a comprehensive sports betting bill that allows for both brick and mortar and online / mobile betting, the tribes have left internet-based sportsbooks out of the equation:

“We know from a lot of research we’ve done into this issue on public opinion that the voters are not inclined to support an expansive measure that could authorize mobile sports betting.

We think the best way to approach this policy framework is a measured, comprehensive, responsible proposal, which is what we’ve got in front of voters right now.”

In a survey sponsored by tribal gaming operators, 66 percent of voters in the state favor a land-based sports betting marketplace while only 29 percent support online / mobile betting.

Jonathan Zaun

One of Gamble Online's first dedicated reporters, Jonathan has spent well over a decade reporting on the gaming industry. While breaking legal news is his main area of expertise, Jonathan is an avid blackjack player & strategist who follows professional poker closely.

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