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, the Indian tribes affirmed our commitment to California – to operate well-regulated gaming on tribal lands for the benefit of Indian peoples 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 for states and local governments each year.
In 2018, the United States Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on sports betting, leaving it up to the states to authorize and regulate it within their borders. In November, California voters will likely be faced with some important choices regarding the future of gambling here.
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 safe gaming
• Allow out-of-state gaming companies to control and offer 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 in-person tribal sports betting measure, called the 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 voting measure will implement proven safeguards to ensure safe, responsible, in-person sports betting by requiring individuals to be 21 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-gaming 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 gambling 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 National Council on Problem Gambling reports that online sports bettors are up to five times more likely to develop problem gambling than other types of gamblers.
Experts warn that the accelerated speed of play, easy access and immediate nature of mobile gaming is particularly appealing to young people and those prone to impulsive gambling.
The measure lacks essential safeguards to prevent underage gambling. There is no surefire way to prevent children from placing bets online using fake IDs or their parent’s information.
Acknowledging that California voters are strongly opposed to the legalization of online gambling, online gambling companies are shrewdly trying to promote their measure as a “solution” to homelessness, earmarking a portion of the revenue gambling for this purpose.
But many experts, including from UCLA’s Gambling Studies Program, cite gambling addiction as a major contributing factor to becoming homeless and sustaining a cycle of homelessness.
It is bad policy to fund homelessness and mental health programs by legalizing online gambling, which will only increase addiction and financial distress.
A broad coalition of Indian tribes is unified in opposition to the out-of-state gaming company measure and in favor of the in-person tribal sports betting act. We are confident that voters will support the California tribes for the benefit of all, as they have for the past 20 years.
Raymond Welch is president of the Barona Band of Mission Indians in San Diego County. Greg Sarris is the Tribal Chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria in Sonoma County.