In a sign of the bruising, expensive fight to come, two Native American tribes are coming out in support of a newly qualified ballot measure to allow online sports gambling — instead of a separate gaming measure backed by dozens of other tribes.
On Wednesday, two tribes — the Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians and the Big Valley Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians — will announce their support for the online gaming measure that proponents call the Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act.
Backed by commercial operators including FanDuel, DraftKings, and BetMGM, the measure would legalize online sports betting in California, with 85% of the revenue going toward housing for the homeless and mental health services. The rest would go to the Indian tribes that will be partnering with major gaming operators in running the operation.
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Shirley Weber announced that the measure had gathered enough valid petition signatures to be eligible for the ballot in November. A report from the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office said new tax revenue from the proposal “could reach the mid-hundreds of millions of dollars annually.”
“We’re supporting the Solutions Act because it gives us an opportunity to protect our sovereignty and also create opportunities for economic wealth for the next seven generations for our tribe,” Jose “Moke” Simon, chair of the Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians, said.
“It also helps the state of California deal with some of the biggest problems that it has here, that is affecting every community, which is homelessness and mental health issues,” said Simon, who stars in a new online ad for the proposal.
It is a sign that what’s expected to be California’s most expensive ballot measure battle ever is heating up. Analysts have predicted that more than $300 million could be spent between the warring parties. That’s far more than the $224 million spent by both sides over 2020’s Proposition 22, which asked voters to decide whether app-based transportation and delivery drivers should be classified as independent contractors.
Both sides believe that the jackpot that awaits is worth it: California’s estimated sports gaming market is estimated to be around $3 billion. At least.
A proposal supporters call the Tribal Sports Wagering Act, which is backed by dozens of Native American tribes, already qualified to go before voters in November. It would allow only in-person sports betting to occur only at tribal casinos and qualified horse racetracks. Proponents say they have secured the endorsement of roughly one-third of California’s 109 Native tribes.
Kathy Fairbanks, a spokesperson for the Tribal Act, said that measure represents a more responsible approach.
“It’s allows sports betting to patrons over 21 and older. You have to be there in person, show your ID, people can look you in the eye and make sure that you match the ID in front of you,” Fairbanks said.
The decision for voters, said industry analyst Brandt Iden, is “retail-only sports betting versus mobile.”
“That’s what this is going to come down to do for consumers,” said Iden, a former Republican Michigan state representative who is now head of government affairs at Sportradar, a sports technology company that provides data and content to the betting industry. “Do I need to walk into a sports book to place a wager, or can I do it from a mobile device anywhere in the state?”
Proponents of the online-only measure touted Wednesday’s endorsement from two smaller tribes as a sign that all of California’s Native tribes aren’t fully on board with the in-person-only measure.
Simon, from the Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians, which operates the Twin Pine Casino and Hotel in Middletown (Lake County), said the online proposal helps smaller tribes that are far from major population centers. If sports betting were confined to only in-person betting at tribal casinos and racetracks, casinos like the one his tribe operates wouldn’t see much uptick in foot traffic.
“We are looking to obviously move into e-commerce, and this gives us an opportunity to do that,” said Simon, who is also a Lake County supervisor.
But Fairbanks, who represents the in-person proposal, discounted the impact of a few tribes supporting the online proposal, noting that more than 60 tribes oppose it.
“The vast, vast majority are opposed to the (online) measure, and we will make sure that voters are aware of that,” Fairbanks said.
Iden, of Sportradar, said it “isn’t surprising” that some smaller tribes are partnering with the commercial operators. He has seen that happen in other states, including Michigan, where he served. The California online gaming proposal requires a commercial operator to be paired with a Native tribe to be able to enter the market.
Iden said that sort of partnership model has been used in other states “where commercial operators enter the market through a tribal brick-and-mortar operation. Traditionally, smaller tribes really benefit from that because of the money that’s involved.”
The larger question will be whether Californians — particularly the younger generation of digital natives who grew up doing many of life’s activities online — will support a measure that would force them to travel to a casino or racetrack to legally bet on a sporting event.
“That is a huge challenge because everything is really online these days,” said Geoff Zochodne, who covers the gaming industry for Covers, an online site. “That’s where the customer is increasingly located for all businesses.”
Fairbanks didn’t dismiss the tribes pursuing online gaming in the future but said that the current online measure isn’t the way to go “at this point in time.”
“Maybe technology will change. But right now, there’s no 100% foolproof way to ensure that kids under 21 aren’t gambling,” she said.
Iden said the real challenge will be for voters, who will see a blizzard of competing ads. Some ads opposing the online-only proposal have been running for weeks online and on TV — even before the measure officially qualified for the ballot.
“The real question becomes how much confusion is created by these two initiatives,” Iden said. “If you’ve got lengthy ballot proposals that you have to sit there and read, you sort of question whether or not people just get confused and they vote no on both.”
BetMGM Reports Significant Increase in WNBA Betting
BetMGM, a leading iGaming and sports betting operator, announced a 27% YoY increase in active WNBA bettors. The Las Vegas Aces (39.6%) and the New York Liberty (23.2%) have attracted the highest handle to win the WNBA Championship.
“The New York Liberty and Las Vegas Aces is our dream matchup for the finals and could generate some serious action. The worst outcome is anyone besides the two clear favorites, the Liberty and Aces, winning it all. Handle is steadily picking up as the playoffs progress. The expansion of legalized sports betting and the WNBA’s most-watched regular season in over two decades are definitely key factors driving the increase,” Seamus Magee, BetMGM Sports Trader, said.
The rise in WNBA wagering continues a trend at BetMGM in betting on women’s sports. BetMGM has seen an over 40% YoY increase in betting on women’s tennis and golf. By comparison, men’s leagues like MLB and the NHL experienced an 18% and 25% increase in bets, respectively.
The 2023 Women’s FIFA World Cup was the most-bet Women’s World Cup ever at BetMGM. The United States Women’s National Team drew the majority of the handle to win the World Cup.
The 2023 NCAA women’s basketball tournament earned strong betting interest and BetMGM reported a 30% increase in handle compared to last year’s tournament. Also, active bettors jumped 22%. For the first time, betting action on the women’s NCAA tournament was comparable to an NFL game.
BetMGM Sportsbook Opens at The Banks
BetMGM, a leading sports betting and iGaming operator announced the new BetMGM Sportsbook at The Banks is officially open in downtown Cincinnati.
Relocating from its temporary Great American Ball Park location, the permanent BetMGM Sportsbook at The Banks is a state-of-the-art facility at the corner of Second Street and Joe Nuxhall Way in the area formerly occupied by Galla Park. The BetMGM Sportsbook features a 350-square-foot video wall in addition to 42 TVs becoming Cincinnati’s go-to destination to catch all the action in an electric gameday atmosphere.
“When we were putting together our plans for Ohio prior to our January launch, building the premier sports and entertainment venue at The Banks was an integral part of delivering the BetMGM experience in The Buckeye State. We are thrilled to see this vision become a reality marking our next big next step in growing our relationship with the city of Cincinnati and the Reds,” Matt Prevost, Chief Revenue Officer at BetMGM, said.
Open to patrons 21 and older, the sportsbook includes three in-person wagering windows, 14 self-service wagering kiosks, more than 200 seats, and an exclusive VIP lounge. The VIP Lounge at the BetMGM Sportsbook is designed to cater to sports enthusiasts seeking an unparalleled gaming and entertainment experience. Showcasing a private bar, state-of-the-art screens, and luxurious seating, the VIP section represents the fusion of high-end sports entertainment and culinary excellence.
BetMGM became the Official Sports Betting Partner of the Cincinnati Reds as part of a multi-year agreement announced last October in advance of Ohio’s launch of legalized sports betting on January 1, 2023.
“Moving the BetMGM Sportsbook to The Banks places this best-in-class operator into the heart of our city’s sports and entertainment district. The popularity of the BetMGM brand will help draw patrons to The Banks and add to the vibrancy of our downtown,” Doug Healy, CFO of Cincinnati Reds, said.
The opening of the BetMGM Sportsbook at The Banks marks Phase 1 of the space, with a full-service restaurant from Nation Kitchen & Bar set to debut later this year.
“We are thrilled about the addition of the BetMGM Sportsbook at The Banks. With the Bengals season starting and the Reds making a push to playoffs, The Banks continues to be the #1 entertainment destination in Cincinnati,” Tracy Schwegmann, Marketing Director/Property Manager for The Banks, said.
BetMGM and Kindbridge Behavioral Health Pioneer Mental Health Access Program for Problem Gamblers in Colorado
BetMGM, a leading sports betting and iGaming operator, and Kindbridge Behavioral Health (Kindbridge), a pioneering mental health service provider dedicated to supporting individuals facing challenges related to problem gambling, announced a groundbreaking program in Colorado revolutionizing the way problem gamblers access essential mental health services. The first-of-its-kind partnership will empower self-excluded players with direct access to comprehensive mental health assessments and group support services.
The pilot program provides resources for players in need to schedule appointments immediately with specialized problem gambling outpatient treatment providers via telehealth services. As part of this partnership, gamblers who self-exclude from the BetMGM platform in Colorado will now be able to receive a complimentary mental health assessment and gain access to a range of peer support and educational groups designed to kickstart their recovery journey.
Adam Greenblatt, CEO of BetMGM, said: “It is important that the sports betting industry continues to invest and innovate in this field. Kindbridge is a leader in developing world-class mental health care that comprehends the unique challenges associated with gambling addiction. We are eager to champion the growth and expansion of connecting problem gamblers with the crucial services they need.”
Daniel Umfleet, Founder & CEO of Kindbridge Behavioral Health, said: “Relationships like this make it considerably easier for individuals seeking care to find swift access to the services they need. Together, Kindbridge and BetMGM are pushing the envelope in creating the right kind of connectivity between the gaming industry and healthcare services that will positively impact lives.”
The Colorado Division of Gaming, recognized for its progressive approach to gaming regulation, played a pivotal role in fostering this partnership via its new rule in October that mandates operators to have a robust risk scoring system for problem gambling detection and a rapid response communication strategy. BetMGM and Kindbridge united to go above and beyond these requirements marking a pivotal moment in the journey toward a safer and more supportive gambling environment.
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