We will not be barraged again with sports gambling campaign ads for the November election, as two ballot measures to legalize sports betting in California have been shelved. But we will still be barraged with ads for gambling apps that Californians cannot use.  

You know all those gambling app ads that are suddenly ubiquitous on TV sports broadcasts, featuring celebrity pitchmen like Jamie Foxx, JB Smoove as Caesar, or Patton Oswalt pretending he’s in Ancient Rome? The funny thing is that no matter how many of these infuriating gambling ads you see on California television, you cannot use these apps in California. While you can legally use a limited number of watered-down “daily sports fantasy” products on FanDuel and DraftKings, the full array of sports betting is not legal in California, and you cannot legally use the massively advertised gambling apps like BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, and ESPN Bet.

That’s because California voters rejected two competing sports-gambling measures in 2022, despite all-time record spending of more than $600 million by the dueling gambling campaigns. But as bettors do, gambling proponents just put down more money to try again for the 2024 election, in an effort largely authored by SoCal crypto bros and wealthy poker guys.  

What they did not understand is that Native American tribes run gambling in California, and the California political site Capitol Weekly reports that the tribes flexed their muscle and quashed those new gambling proposals, both of which are now abandoned. While the ballot measures both had the tribal-friendly sounding names of “Tribal Gaming Protection Act" and "Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act," there was very little tribal involvement in the crafting of these measures.

“Tribes are the operators in California. Period,” California Nations Indian Gaming Association chairperson James Siva said at the Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention this month per Capitol Weekly. “We’ll let them know what terms we’ll be willing to accept.”

FanDuel CEO Amy Howe also appeared on a panel at that conference, and clearly waved a white flag. She called their 2022 measure a “spectacular failure” and said that FanDuel “learned a lot” from the defeat.

And it seems they have. Capitol Weekly reports that FanDuel has staffed up with Native Americans, most notably poaching National Indian Gaming Commission chair E. Sequoyah Simermeyer and making him FanDuel’s vice president for strategic partnerships. They've also hired several executives from the prominent gaming industry tribe San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

So now the soonest we would see sports gambling on the California ballot would be 2026. Until then, there’s a slow dance going on behind the scenes of the sports gambling apps hiring Native American industry influencers, and the tribes assessing how much they can squeeze out of FanDuel and DraftKings.

Related: Men Behind Latest Sports Gambling Ballot Initiative Revealed to Be Crypto Guy, High-Stakes Poker Guy [SFNews]

Image via BetMGM