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California Indian tribes add wrinkles to sports betting legislation drama

During times of fiscal crisis, governments of all kinds look to regulated vice, like sports betting, to help fill in those budgetary gaps. That’s exactly what lawmakers in California had in mind last week when they introduced a new sports betting bill aimed at helping the state dig itself out of a COVID-19 induced monetary crisis. But legislating gambling in California has never been easy and all roads to change lead through the strongholds of tribal gaming interests.

That’s exactly what happened when State Sen. Bill Dodd of Napa and Assemblyman Adam Gray of Merced attempted to put a measure on the November ballot that would allow for regulated sports betting at Cali Indian casinos and horse racing tracks. As part of their bill, they proposed that card rooms also be allowed house backed card games including baccarat and blackjack. In turn, Indian casinos would be allowed to expand their offerings to include table games like craps. The state would get additional tax revenue and everyone would be happy, right? Wrong.

The California Native Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) issued a statement late last week suggesting that they weren’t thrilled with the new plan. They’re pushing California lawmakers to scrap the plan and just let them lead the way.

Under the proposed sports betting bill, the state would receive a 10 percent tax on land-based wagers and 15 percent on mobile bets. Dodd suggests that allowing sports betting would help the state prevent layoffs, according to the Mercury News.

Previous efforts to expand California gambling have frequently gone down in flames when Indian gaming interests find elements of them they don’t like.