California Tribes Want to Put the Brakes on DFS Legislation

Last month, California lawmakers voted 62-1 in favor of a bill which aims to regulate the daily fantasy sports (DFS) industry in the state. The speedy approval of the legislation, however, has ruffled the feathers of some of the state’s most powerful Indian tribes, who worry that the legalization of DFS infringes on their right to offer casino gambling.

AB 1437 was introduced by Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) last September, and was meant to protect state residents from potentially untrustworthy daily fantasy operators.

In November, Assemblyman Marc Levine, the only lawmaker to vote against the bill, asked Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris to give her opinion on the legality of the industry. Even though Harris had not (and still has not) responded, lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to pass the measure.

Tribes state their concerns

Now, two powerful tribes have submitted letters to Assemblyman Gray, stating their displeasure at how quickly the bill was passed. Robert Martin, chairman of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, questioned whether DFS contests amount to illegal gambling, as attorneys general in New York and Texas have claimed. According to Martin, legalizing the industry would in effect reward daily fantasy operators “with no repercussions for violating state law.”

San Manuel and Morongo Bands flex muscle

Martin also reminded Gray of how much his tribe has contributed to the “state and local economies by offering games that are legal under state and federal law.” He said that, “our members are very concerned that a retroactive approval of a form of gaming that is otherwise illegal, simply because it is popular, is a very dangerous precedent.”

The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians expressed its own concerns in a similar letter.

What about online poker?

The two tribes, along with several state card rooms, are members of a coalition which has aligned itself with online poker giant PokerStars in its bid to operate in California, if an iGaming bill is passed there.

The speed with which the assembly adopted the DFS bill pales in comparison to the hard-fought battle to legalize Internet gambling, which ended in an impasse last year.

The authors of the San Manuel and Morongo Band letters hinted that the daily fantasy and online poker language could be tied into the same piece of legislation. With online poker momentum stalling, lawmakers might capitalize on the recent push to clarify the laws pertaining to DFS operators.

The letters are the first hint of opposition that CA lawmakers have felt in regards to their speedy passage of AB 1437. To progress further, the bill still needs to pass in the Senate, and survive any future legal opinion given by the Atty. Gen.