If California Prop 26 passes and Prop 27 fails this November, it makes sense that at least a handful of California tribes might partner with existing private sports betting companies to offer retail sportsbooks at the tribes’ casinos.
Especially if those tribes want to launch fast. Major US sportsbook brands have already built out their platforms. They’ve already done the legwork.
And, as California’s Nov. 8 election nears, Prop 26 appears to be the only California sports betting measure that has a chance.
The backers of California Prop 27, which would authorize online sports betting in the state, recently pulled their TV ads after poll results revealed that over half of likely voters in the state said they would vote no on the measure.
Instead, Prop 27 will focus more on direct communication tactics. The biggest Prop 27 supporters are DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, and Fanatics (FanaticsBet).
We’ll see if those efforts pay off.
But if they don’t, and if Prop 26 does pass, there are a handful of companies in a good position to partner with California tribes and offer retail sports betting. Some tribes already have agreements in place to operate their retail sportsbooks with private sports betting companies.
Here’s where those retail sportsbooks might launch.
Unibet is in the best position of all sports betting companies, because it already has a deal in place with a California tribe.
The Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation, which spans across California and Arizona, entered a multi-state, 10-year partnership with Unibet in 2021. Under this deal, Unibet will provide retail and online sports betting and iGaming for the tribe’s two casinos — Quechan Casino Resort in California, and Paradise Casino in Arizona.
Unibet provides online gaming, including sportsbooks, in several countries. It already has a retail sportsbook at Paradise Casino, and Unibet online sports betting is live in Arizona.
Situated in the southeast corner of the state, the tribe’s California casino sits just 5 miles from the Arizona border and 2 miles from the Mexico border. If that casino ever offered sports betting, it would do so with a Unibet retail sportsbook.
The Quechan Tribe has not publicly endorsed Prop 26.
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Potential Arizona Border Retail SportsbookCasinoAddressTribeInfoUnibet SportsbookQuechan Casino Resort525 Algodones Rd, Winterhaven, CA 92283Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian ReservationTribe has 10-year deal with Unibet to run its online and retail sportsbooks; Unibet has retail sportsbook at tribe’s Arizona casino
While Caesars doesn’t have an agreement on the books, it still sits in an enviable position.
Caesars Entertainment has been neutral in the Prop 26 vs. Prop 27 debate because of its longstanding relationships with two California tribes: the Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians and the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians.
These relationships exist because Caesars operates Harrah’s Resorts. And the two California tribes own two Harrah’s properties — Harrah’s Resort Southern California (Rincon Band) and Harrah’s Resort Northern California (Buena Vista Rancheria).
Harrah’s Resort SoCal is in Valley Center, about 40 miles north of San Diego.
So if Prop 26 passes, Caesars may open a retail sportsbook at that property. It already runs the Harrah’s Resort SoCal casino. And Caesars already has sportsbooks at tribal-owned casinos in other states, including Harrah’s Resort Ak-Chin near Phoenix and two Harrah’s Resorts in North Carolina. The precedent is there.
The Rincon Band has publicly endorsed Prop 26.
Barstool Sportsbook (PENN Gaming)
PENN Gaming, which owns Barstool Sports and the Barstool Sportsbook brand, was previously partnered with the Jamul Indian Village when its casino opened in 2016 as Hollywood Casino Jamul.
However, the two agreed to separate in 2018 and the tribe’s casino has been branded as Jamul Casino ever since.
Still, if Prop 26 passes and Jamul Casino wants to open a retail sportsbook with some help, perhaps it would fall back on its relationship with PENN Gaming to get one launched quickly.
Jamul Casino is 20 miles east of San Diego. The Jamul Indian Village has endorsed Prop 26.
Betway, Unibet, FanDuel
The Pala Band of Mission Indians owns Pala Casino Spa Resort in Pala, 53 miles north of San Diego. The tribe also owns Pala Interactive, an online real-money and social casino gaming services platform. Through Pala Interactive, the Pala Band has partnerships with Betway and Unibet — two online gaming companies that also offer sports betting.
However, FanDuel could be another company to watch if the Pala Band wants to launch a retail sportsbook under a national brand. That’s because Boyd Gaming, a gambling industry leader, will soon finalize its $170 million acquisition of Pala Interactive.
Boyd Gaming owns a 5% stake in FanDuel, and the two companies recently worked together to launch retail and online sports betting in Kansas.
Potential San Diego Retail SportsbookCasinoAddressTribeInfoCaesars SportsbookHarrah’s Resort Southern California777 S Resort Dr, Valley Center, CA 92082Rincon Band of Luiseño IndiansCaesars already runs this casino, and it runs retail sportsbooks at Harrah’s Resorts in other statesBarstool SportsbookJamul Casino14145 Campo Rd, Jamul, CA 91935Jamul Indian VillageTribe previously had a partnership with PENN Gaming, which owns Barstool SportsbookUnibet, Betway, FanDuelPala Casino Spa Resort11154 CA-76, Pala, CA 92059Pala Band of Mission IndiansTribe has relationships through Pala Interactive with Unibet, Betway; Boyd Gaming, which is about to acquire Pala Interactive, owns 5% stake in FanDuel
The United Auburn Indian Community owns Thunder Valley Casino Resort, which sits 27 miles north of Sacramento.
In 2018, MGM Resorts and Entain announced a joint venture partnership with the United Auburn Indian Community. As part of that partnership, the tribe will use the BetMGM brand for its retail and online sports betting platforms, whenever sports betting becomes legal in California.
The tribe and MGM Resorts also entered a marketing partnership in 2014. Thunder Valley rewards members also have access to MGM Resorts’ rewards program, MGM Rewards.
The United Auburn Indian Community is not among the 58 tribes listed as supporters of Prop 26.
BetMGM could have another option, too.
Red Hawk Casino, owned by the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians, became the official casino partner of the Sacramento Kings in July with a multi-year partnership. The partnership will feature fan contests and giveaways. Visitors to the casino will receive special deals on Kings tickets and merchandise.
The Kings are also corporate partners with MGM Resorts.
So it seems plausible that, if Prop 26 passes and Red Hawk Casino — 38 miles northeast of Sacramento — wants a retail sportsbook, perhaps it would work with BetMGM.
The Shingle Springs Band is a Yes on 26 campaign coalition member.
We already discussed how Caesars runs casinos at Harrah’s Resort Southern California and Harrah’s Resort Northern California, and how Caesars runs retail sportsbooks at Harrah’s Resorts in other states.
If Prop 26 passes, logic would say there’s a good chance a retail Caesars Sportsbook could open at Harrah’s Resort Northern California, which is 40 miles southeast of Sacramento.
“We don’t want to be in opposition to tribal interests when we’re their partners,” Caesars CEO Thomas Reeg told analysts in the company’s second-quarter earnings call in August. “So, we’ve remained neutral in California throughout. You should expect that to be the case in any state where tribes are at odds with the commercial interests.”
The Buena Vista Rancheria, which owns Harrah’s Resort Northern California, has not publicly endorsed Prop 26.
Potential Sacramento Retail SportsbookCasinoAddressTribeInfoBetMGMThunder Valley Casino Resort1200 Athens Ave, Lincoln, CA 95648United Auburn Indian CommunityThunder Valley is an MGM Resorts partner propertyBetMGMRed Hawk Casino1 Red Hawk Pkwy, Placerville, CA 95667Shingle Springs Band of Miwok IndiansRed Hawk Casino is the official casino of the Sacramento Kings, who are partnered with MGM ResortsCaesars SportsbookHarrah’s Resort Northern California4640 Coal Mine Rd, Ione, CA 95640Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk IndiansCaesars already runs this casino, and it runs retail sportsbooks at Harrah’s Resorts in other states
Other Potential Retail Sportsbook Locations
Cache Creek Casino Resort, owned by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, has marketing partnerships with several pro sports teams in the state, including the Golden State Warriors, San Francisco 49ers, San Francisco Giants, San Jose Sharks, Sacramento Kings, and Oakland A’s.
These deals center on in-game promotions, media sponsorships, and prominent signage in arenas and stadiums.
We already mentioned the Kings are partnered with MGM Resorts. But sports betting companies like DraftKings and FanDuel have corporate relationships with the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL. Betway is partnered with the Warriors, too.
Could those relationships matter if and when Cache Creek Casino Resort wants to open a sportsbook?
The Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Los Angeles Galaxy have partnerships with Yaamava’ Resort & Casino.
Owned by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, the luxury hotel and resort 65 miles east of Los Angeles opened in 1986 and today it’s the largest casino in California. Its partnerships with the Dodgers and Ducks began over a decade ago.
DraftKings is already the official daily fantasy sports partner of the Galaxy, and the company has partnerships with MLB and the NHL. Could that put the Boston-based sportsbook in a good position if Yaamava’ wants help from a private company to launch its retail sportsbook?
Pechanga Resort Casino, owned and operated by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, is an official founding partner of SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. The stadium is the home field for the Los Angeles Chargers and the Los Angeles Rams.
The partnership also made Pechanga Resort Casino the official casino partner of the two pro teams.
DraftKings, FanDuel, and Caesars Sportsbook are the NFL’s primary sports betting partners.
Pechanga Resort Casino, which is about halfway between San Diego and Los Angeles, also has longstanding partnerships with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Angels.
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Sycuan Casino Resort, owned by Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, is a major partner of the San Diego Padres. MLB is sports betting partners with DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, FOX Bet, and Bet365, among others.
The casino is just 25 miles east of San Diego.
Keep an Eye on DraftKings, FanDuel, Betway
DrafKings is no stranger to working with tribes. For example: It entered an agreement with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in Connecticut to offer its retail sportsbook at Foxwoods Resort Casino.
FanDuel also works with a Connecticut tribe, the Mohegan Tribe, to offer a retail sportsbook at its casino, Mohegan Sun, recently voted the No. 1 casino in the US by USA TODAY readers.
Not long ago, just in 2018, both those Connecticut tribes had similar stances to today’s California tribes — that they, alone, should be the providers of gambling in their state.
So, even though California tribes and US sportsbooks are in an election war right now, they could be money-making partners in the future.
A smaller private sports betting company punching above its weight, Betway has locked in deals with the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Kings, and Golden State Warriors.
Why does that matter?
As we’ve discussed, partnerships with professional teams could be key if Prop 26 passes and casinos who are also partners with those teams want to work with a private company to launch a retail sportsbook.
The sportsbooks discussed in this story aren’t the only ones with professional sports partnerships, but they are some of the most notable. And they give you an idea of how intertwined sports betting companies have become with sports franchises.
Can California Tribes Launch Their Own Sportsbooks?
Certainly. Many tribes across the country have their own sportsbooks.
And if a tribe runs its own sportsbook, it doesn’t have to share revenue.
However, that tribe won’t have the same brand recognition as a BetMGM California, for instance. And that could wind up leading to less sports betting handle than if the tribe shared revenue with a nationally known company.
But, again, there’s nothing stopping tribes from opening their own branded sportsbook.
In states such as Michigan, for example, there are both private company-branded and tribal-branded retail sportsbooks.
Below are some successful examples from Michigan, Mississippi, and New Mexico:
Retail SportsbookCasinoStateTribeInfoSportsbook at Timeout LoungePearl River ResortMississippiMississippi Band of Choctaw IndiansAlso has its own sports betting app, Pearl River SportsNew Mexico’s First Sportsbook @TheStarSanta Ana Star Casino HotelNew MexicoPueblo of Santa AnaHas self-service terminals open daily from 8 a.m to midnight131 Sportsbook and LoungeGun Lake CasinoMichiganGun Lake TribeGun Lake Casino partnered with Parx Casino for this sportsbookThunder Race and SportsbookHiton Santa Fe Buffalo ThunderNew MexicoPueblo of PojoaqueA combined racebook and sportsbookFour Winds SportsbookFour Winds CasinosMichiganPokagon Band of Potawatomi30 betting kiosks spread among the three Four Wind CasinosDacey’s SportsbookFireKeepers Casino & HotelMichiganNottawaseppi Huron Band of PotawatomiHas three live betting windows and four self-service kiosksAscend SportsbookSoaring Eagle Casino & ResortMichiganSaginaw Chippewa Indian TribeOffers its own app, too, called Eagle Casino & Sports