California Indian Tribes Label Fantasy Pick'Em Games as Illegal Sports Betting

Quick Intro

The California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA), representing 52 member tribes, has raised concerns with the state attorney general about the legality of daily fantasy sports (DFS) and labeled pick’em games as illegal sports betting. James Siva, CNIGA’s chairman, voiced these concerns through a letter to Attorney General Rob Bonta, highlighting the longstanding ambiguity surrounding DFS in California and seeking a legal standpoint under state law.

DFS Legality Inquiry

In response to a request from California Senator Scott Wilk for an opinion on DFS’s legality, posed in October, the attorney general solicited feedback on whether California law prohibits DFS platforms within the state. Senator Wilk had previously suggested that DFS might constitute a game of chance, which is not allowed under California law. The attorney general has yet to outline a timeline for delivering an opinion on DFS’s legality.

Tribal Concerns on Unregulated Gambling

While the tribes prioritize addressing unregulated gambling, they also express frustration over the rapid focus on DFS legality when issues regarding cardroom games have awaited clarification for years. The rejection of Prop 27 by California voters, which would have legalized online sports betting, underscores the tribes’ concerns about unauthorized sports betting, including bets on individual player performances in games.

Illegal Sports Betting Allegations

CNIGA points out that some DFS operators are essentially offering sports betting by allowing bets on specific player statistics, which contravenes the state’s ban on banking games.

Legal Analysis of Pick’em Games

CNIGA’s legal analysis asserts that pick’em games, where participants bet against the house on athletes’ performance statistics, violate California’s prohibition on banking games and Penal Code 337a(a), which forbids accepting bets on the outcome of contests of skill or endurance.

Furthermore, CNIGA challenges the legality of regular DFS games as illegal percentage games, where operators take a cut of wagers or winnings, arguing that these activities could be considered lotteries under state law due to their reliance on chance over skill and the disparity between individual wagers and total prize payouts.

This comprehensive stance by the CNIGA underscores a significant concern over the regulation and legality of DFS and sports betting in California, highlighting the need for clear legal guidelines and the protection of regulated gaming activities within the state.

The Impact on California’s Gaming Landscape

The CNIGA’s stance on DFS and pick’em games signals a pivotal moment for California’s gaming landscape. By challenging the legality of these platforms, the tribes are not only seeking to protect their gaming interests but also to ensure that gambling within the state adheres to legal and ethical standards. This debate underscores the complexity of balancing innovation in gaming with regulatory compliance and highlights the need for clear, updated legislation to address the evolving nature of online and fantasy sports betting.