They stopped just short of an outright concession, but the chief executives of DraftKings and FanDuel on Tuesday (October 11) acknowledged their sports-betting referendum in California is likely to fail on November 8.
The anticipated defeat in California would cap a difficult year for DraftKings and FanDuel after another bitter sports-betting loss in January to the Seminole Tribe in Florida.
Despite the gloomy outlook for Proposition 27, which would have legalized online betting in California, Jason Robins of DraftKings and Amy Howe of FanDuel vowed to return to the Golden State in the next election year of 2024.
But the comments from Robins and Howe at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas only seemed to steel the resolve of tribes who successfully opposed their sports-betting proposition this year.
“I think when you have over $100m being spent on false and misleading [television] ads [by California tribes], people don’t know; just like they don’t know the difference between a legal and an illegal market. They just know what they see,” Robins said.
“It makes it hard on a first go-around to get your narrative out there.”
Robins appeared with Howe on a ballroom stage at The Venetian Expo for an interview with CNBC correspondent Contessa Brewer.
“We absolutely live to fight another day,” Howe said.
“It has always been the industry’s intention that we try to find a solution that aligns the stakeholders [in California] — the tribes, the racetracks, the governments and ultimately the consumers,” Howe said.
“We believe there is a path for everybody.”
However, California tribal leaders wasted little time in blasting Robins and Howe during a panel discussion later on Tuesday that discussed Proposition 27 and Proposition 26, another doomed initiative which would have restricted sports betting to in-person wagering at tribal casinos and the state's four racetracks.
James Siva, chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) and vice chair of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, said DraftKings and FanDuel spent far more money on their sports-betting campaign than tribes did, including as much as $22m in only one week.
“This already is the most expensive proposition in the history of California,” Siva said. “Over $450m spent to date, and we’re still a month out from election day.”
Siva drew applause from the audience when he said commercial sports-betting executives would be wise to get a tattoo on their bodies saying, “I will never underestimate California tribes again.”
Responding to Howe’s comment about FanDuel fighting another day, Jacob Mejia, vice president of public and external affairs for the Pechanga tribe, said: “If you’re fighting tribes, you’re losing — period.”
Mejia described the campaign by the commercial sports-betting companies for Proposition 27 as “toxic” and said it contributed to the demise of Proposition 26.
“It is polluting the atmosphere,” Mejia said.
Victor Rocha, the editor of Pechanga.net who moderated the tribal sports-betting panel, said DraftKings and FanDuel “just don’t get it.”
Support for sports betting in California is soft, Rocha said, and the state is even less supportive of online wagering.
“There wasn’t a [pro] football team in [Southern] California for 20 years, and nobody cared,” he said.