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How will California proposed sports betting affect the state’s Indian casinos?

On Nov. 8, 2022, California voters will be asked if they want to legalize sports betting at Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks in the state.

The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, which owns Graton Resort & Casino in Sonoma County, is one of the top five donors to the campaign that has raised $11.78 million, according to BallotPedia. Graton Rancheria has donated $1.7 million to the cause.

Included in the ballot measure would be the addition of roulette, craps and other dice games at tribal gaming establishments. Addendums to each tribes’ state compact would need to be written to allow for additional gaming offerings.

Sports betting is permitted outside of Nevada because in 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court did away with the federal prohibition.

States jumped on this, with 32 allowing sports betting. Six have approved online gaming.

No matter what voters decide, another component all casinos will have to contend with is online or mobile gaming. This is where younger generations are gravitating.

“We know that slot machines and some other gaming devices tend to skew to older customers. We don't see younger customers as interested in those games,” said Kathryn Rand, co-director of the Institute for the Study of Tribal Gaming Law and Policy at the University of North Dakota. “We see younger customers interested in mobile gaming, sports betting and skilled games, so games where they can win based on something other than the random number generator that is typical of gaming.”

Anthony Lucas, a professor of casino management at the University of Nevada Las Vegas who has developed award-winning research on the business aspects of the global gaming industry, acknowledged brick-and-mortar casinos feel threatened by the growth of online gaming and are trying to fight its expansion.

He believes online gaming will attract a different kind of player, but is certain the social aspect provided inside an actual building won’t be replaced.

Koi Nation, which is working to build a $600 million casino resort near Windsor in Sonoma County, is also well aware of the online trend.

“The growth of online gaming reflects a larger growth trend in gaming overall. Online, sports betting, casinos are all doing well. In fact, the American Gaming Association reported that July 2021 was the highest grossing month ever in the industry, and the record it broke was set in May,” said Darin Beltran, chair of Koi Nation. “Trends like that are good news not only for the Koi Nation but for all our brethren who, like us, are seeking economic independence through our federal gaming rights.”

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