Gaming tribes opposing Prop. 27 to legalize online sports betting in CA

Josh Haskell Image
Friday, October 7, 2022
Here's how Prop. 27 works and why some tribes oppose gaming measure
Proposition 27 would legalize online sports betting in California but some tribes that operate casinos oppose it as a threat to their sovereignty.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- You can't legally bet on sports in California right now, but Proposition 27 would change that, allowing online betting operated by Native American tribes and gambling companies.

One selling point behind the measure: Proponents argue Prop. 27 would be the only permanent source of funding for solving homelessness.

"Twenty-five other states have legalized online sports betting," said Nathan Click, spokesperson for the the yes on 27 campaign.

"They're proving that you can do so safely and responsibly and create real revenue for the state of California. Prop. 27 will create the safest and most responsible online sports-betting marketplace in the country. We have unlimited amounts of money that can be directed towards the state's problem gaming interventions. We train every employee at any of these platforms to be able to spot problem gaming."

Those behind the proposition say 85% of the money generated through a 10% tax would fund programs for the homeless. California's nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office estimates Prop. 27 would generate $500 million a year. But those against the measure say that's not enough to solve homelessness, noting how California is currently investing $15 billion over a two-year period.

"Talk about the homeless, talk about tribes. But we see it as deceitful and trying to trick the voters into, 'Hey side with us. We have a good narrative.' But when you look at how many dollars are going to go to the effort, it's not going to be a solution for homelessness," said Daniel Salgado, chairman of the Cahuilla Band of Indians in Riverside County.

Salgado's tribe operates limited gaming to provide tribal revenue. Salgado says 27 is a threat to his tribe and others in the state because it starts with wagering on sports, but he believes the end game is full online gaming.

"We've lost land, we've lost water, we've lost culture, we've lost people through genocide. Sovereignty is what allows us to have self-governance and self-determination. This initiative explicitly says, we waive sovereignty," said Salgado.

Professor Timothy Fong, co-director of the UCLA gambling studies program, supports regulated gambling but has concerns. How would the industry combat unregulated gambling, make sure those below age 21 don't bet on sports, and keep Californians from developing addictions to gambling. Fong says the problem isn't sports betting, but how you bet on sports as cellphones have put a 24/7 casino in our pocket.

"Eighty percent of the patients I'm seeing, their main form of gambling source is on the cellphone," Fong said.

"Whether that's with a bookie or unregulated casino or social casino game. They're trying to work on recovery all the time, but they're then looking at the phone which is the device that brings them to their addiction. The cell phone, is it the syringe that delivers the drug or is it the drug itself? In the brain right now, there's a lot of us that are not sure. We think it's both."

Some tribes support Proposition 27, although more than half do not and say 90% of profits would fall into the hands of out-of-state corporations. On homelessness, although the state is investing billions right now, some homeless providers say there's no guarantee how long that money will be maintained and that's why the permanent aspect of 27 is so key for their work.

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