Why Adopting Sports Gambling in California Has to Involve Tribes

FILE - Betting odds for NFL football's Super Bowl 55 are displayed on monitors at the Circa resort and casino sports book, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

By James Ramos, CalMatters

Re: “Ironically, Californians and Missourians can’t legally bet on their Super Bowl teams

A recent column about California’s stance on sports gambling overlooks a crucial piece of our state’s history and promise to its people. As both a tribal member and an elected member of the California Assembly, I feel compelled to highlight the commitment California tribes made nearly a quarter-century ago – a commitment that has shaped the landscape of gaming in our state.

In 1999, California tribes united under a groundbreaking initiative. For the first time, we leveraged federal policies to foster self-reliance, seizing an opportunity that would change the future of tribal communities and our state. The promises made to the people of California were clear: Gaming would be restricted to federally recognized reservations, and it would be conducted responsibly to benefit not only the tribes but also the surrounding communities.

This promise was not made lightly. Our commitment ensures that gaming in California remains a force for good, benefiting Californians rather than outside corporations and other states.

California tribes have been diligent stewards of gaming, honoring our word to the people of California. The decisive approval of propositions that amended our state constitution to support tribal gaming is a testament to the trust and support we have garnered from Californians. This trust is something we do not take for granted.

The introduction of sports betting presents an opportunity to generate much-needed revenues to tackle challenges that disproportionately affect Native Americans and all Californians alike – issues such as domestic violence, mental health, housing and the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

These are not abstract problems but daily realities that demand attention and resources.

Sports betting in California must be approached with the same principles of responsibility, community benefit and respect for the promises made decades ago. It’s not about legalizing sports betting; it’s about ensuring that any expansion of gaming aligns with the values and commitments that have guided tribal gaming since its inception.

The tribes have stood firm in their promise to protect gaming and keep the revenues within California. As we consider the future of sports betting, let’s not forget the lessons of the past and the importance of upholding the commitments that have made tribal gaming a model of responsible and community-oriented enterprise. Let us move forward with care, ensuring that sports betting, if it comes to pass, is implemented in a way that honors our shared values and the well-being of all Californians.


This article was originally published by CalMatters.


Written by CalMatters

CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics. (Articles are published in partnership with edhat.com)

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  1. One small consolation to a few centuries of appropriation and mistreatment has been to allow tribes dominion over many/most gambling establishments and activities. Here in our county and actually in many places it’s been a resounding success. Look at Solvang, the sheer number of people working, tribal and not, in their enterprises, the voluntary contributions to the county tax base, the continued desire to discuss partner and help Santa Barbara county to be the best place possible for everyone here. The Santa Ynez band of Chumash is the most stable governmental and corporate entity in the county. The argument that it is a ‘bad social activity’ possibly true when viewed through the most parochial lens, is a slippery slope that belies a free society and human autonomy within reasonable limits. Taking that position you could move on to prohibiting many foods, literature, other arts, alcohol, marijuana, non procreative sex, etc. Things that free humans can handle on their own pretty well actually. I did not see the Taliban Party of California on the ballot this year. Keep thinking like this and maybe there will be an effective counterpoint to the California Communism that currently dominates state politics.

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