‘We have every right to be careful’: How Propositions 26 and 27 could transform the tribal game

A pair of dueling proposals that could seriously expand sports betting across the state present high stakes for Native American tribes whose economic prosperity and gambling operations are intertwined, including many in San Diego County.

Proposition 26 would allow in-person sports betting at tribal casinos and racetracks; Proposition 27 would allow online sports betting on platforms run by tribes as well as gaming companies such as DraftKings and FanDuel, which fund it. If both measures are adopted, only the one that receives the most votes will come into force.

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A record amount – more than $550 million – was invested in both measures. Local tribes, including those in Temecula, have donated nearly $100 million to support Proposition 26 and oppose Proposition 27, according to state campaign finance records.

Competing measures are likely to either reinforce or destabilize one of the most important economic drivers for statewide reservations. For tribes, who have limited options for funding their operations, revenue from tribal casinos pays for many essential services on reservations, including police, fire, medical care, housing, infrastructure and educational programs, such as Kumeyaay Community College.

“All of these things are made possible through the Indian game,” said President Cody Martinez of the Kumeyaay Nation’s Sycuan Band.

According to proposition 26, these revenues could increase significantly. But if Proposition 27 passes, some tribal leaders fear legal online sports betting could threaten the viability of their own gambling operations and the key funding they provide.

As Election Day approaches, voters in San Diego County appear unconvinced of Proposition 26 and largely opposed to Proposition 27.

According to a poll released last week by SurveyUSA for The San Diego Union-Tribune and KGTV 10News, 58% of local voters oppose Proposition 27, while 27% support it. Voters were more divided on Proposition 26, only slightly more opposed than in favor — within the poll’s margin of error. Support was highest among the small percentage of voters who regularly visit tribal casinos or bet on sports.

Already, intense campaigning has made the two most expensive propositions since the 1999-2000 election cycle — the first for which the state provides data — spending on Proposition 27 alone far exceeding the record by more than $220 million spent on Proposition 22 two years ago. .

What each measure would do

The two propositions garnered more than $100 million in contributions, but most — more than $380 million — went to Proposition 27. The measure is expected to significantly change the state’s gambling landscape.

Leaders of four of California’s most successful Native American tribes with gambling interests are early proponents of Proposition 26. The measure would legalize sports betting — but only in person at tribal casinos and the four private racetracks in the state. State. It would also legalize roulette and dice games like craps.

A coalition of more than 30 tribes supports Proposition 26, with major funding from the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in Palm Springs, the Barona Band of Mission Indians in Lakeside, and the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation in rural Yolo County. .

In San Diego County, its supporters include La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians, La Posta Band of Mission Indians, Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeño Indians, Pala Band of Mission Indians, San Pasqual of Mission Indians, the Sycuan Band and Viejas of Kumeyaay Indians.

Proposition 27 would go further, allowing sports betting from computers and smart devices when within state boundaries.

Under Proposition 27, gaming companies — such as DraftKings and FanDuel, which control much of the U.S. online sports betting market — would have to partner with a California tribe and pay $100 million for a license. in the state. The tribes could also offer sports betting platforms themselves for an entry fee of $10 million.

Tribes and gambling companies holding a sports betting license would pay 10% of their sports betting revenue to the state each month, after subtracting certain expenses and losses. Most of that tax revenue would fund programs for homelessness, mental illness and gambling addiction, with a lesser cut for tribes not involved in online sports betting – the money his supporters have highlighted and supported is essential to address homelessness.

opponentsincluding 10 san diego tribesfear that Proposition 27 will divert business from tribal casinos and let existing sports betting platforms control the market in the state.
This is Martinez’s concern.

Sycuan was one of the first tribes to bring games to the area when it opened its high-stakes bingo hall in 1983, he said. Over the years the game has grown there, and now the Sycuan Casino Resort has over 50 tables, 2,400 gaming machines, a number of restaurants and a $260 million resort.

Martinez, who opposes Proposition 27, believes legalizing online and mobile sports betting will hurt tribal finances statewide.

“Tribes have every right to be suspicious of changes or growth in gambling in the state,” he said. “We fought for this with blood, sweat and tears, as I like to say, and we have every right to be cautious and protective of the industry we have. built.”

A ‘opportunity that worked for the tribes

Tribal gaming in California has grown into a nearly $20 billion industry, reports the American Gaming Association, since a 1987 Supreme Court ruling involving two California tribes – the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians and the Morongo Band of Indians. Cahuilla Mission, both in Riverside County – paved the way for major expansion. In that case, the court ruled that neither the state nor the county could regulate card game and bingo operations on tribal lands.

In 1998, Californians voted to allow tribal casinos through Proposition 5, which was later ruled unconstitutional by the court. Following this ruling, voters passed Proposition 1A in the March 2000 election, amending the state Constitution and allowing the governor to negotiate pacts with federally recognized tribes to operate certain types of gambling on their lands.

The widespread legalization of casinos has had a major impact on tribes across the country.

Tribal-owned businesses are generally the primary source of funding for tribal governments, whose lands are held in trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Due to the reservations’ trust status, tribal governments are unable to levy and collect property taxes, and many also do not impose income taxes on their citizens, according to the National Indian Congress. from America.

In a 2018 article on sovereign tribal nations and planning, the San Diego Association of Governments reported that game and other development on county tribal lands has resulted in rapid growth for a number of tribes, created more than 10,000 local jobs, and resulted in a billion dollar industry.

A 2019 study from the University of Washington School of Public Health found that tribal casinos are correlated with significant health improvements among Native Americans within native communities in California. The study found that tribes with casinos – about half of the 81 tribes surveyed – had more resources for health, community and recreational infrastructure.

Joely Proudfitt at her home in Carlsbad on Wednesday, June 30, 2021, after being appointed to the Commission on the Status of Women and Girls.

(Sandy Huffaker/for the San Diego Union-Tribune)

“Colonization made a number of Californian tribes, as evidenced by our small population size and the size of our land base,” said Joely Proudfit, a professor at California State University, San Marcos, involved in the No on Prop 27 campaign and has worked to support tribal gambling in California since the Proposition 5 campaign in the late 1990s. “Tribal government gambling has really been the only economic development opportunity that has worked for tribes. “

In addition to the California tribes themselves benefiting from the construction of casinos, each non-gambling tribe in the state – primarily those in rural areas unsuited to gambling – also receives $1.1 million in funding each year through the Revenue. Sharing Trust Fund, according to a statement Report of the Office of the Legislative Analyst.

A spokeswoman for the No on Prop 27 campaign said the tribes she spoke with were mostly focused on the failure of Prop 27 in the upcoming election.

Proudfit, however, believes there could be a battle in court if this were to pass. “If Proposition 27 were to pass, I believe the tribal nations would use whatever legal remedies they could find,” she said.

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