Flutter and Entain prepare $100m to take on California

By Louis Thompsett

Operating giants Flutter and Entain are building a $100m lobbying fund as they prepare to combat Native American tribes over plans to legalise online sports betting in California. 

The operators hope to include a law to add online sports betting to the state's November electoral ballot.  

Tribal casinos are against the legalisation of gambling in online spheres, cognizant that both Flutter and Entain have the clout and means to sweep up existing and prospective gamers. Tribes feel they could do without the competition. 

It may be hard for Native American tribes, though, as the person leading the charge for the commercial operators is Dana Williamson, the former strategist to President Joe Biden's current health secretary.

So far, Flutter and Entain have the support of five other operators in the US. Additionally, their act – the California Solutions of Homelessness and Mental Health Act – is designed to use tax revenue generated from online sports betting to combat social problems across California such as homelessness. 

However, this bill has met with a rival ballot put forward by 61 Californian tribes, entitled the California Legalize Sports Betting on American Indian Lands Initiative. This rival bill would only allow tribal locations and the state’s four horse racing tracks to offer in-person sports betting. 

California’s tribes look set to match the $100m war chest amassed by Flutter and Entain, utilising the $27.8bn tribal revenue gained in 2020 across the US. 

Despite what looks like a united tribal front, two of California’s tribes have come to the support of the Flutter and Entain-led collective of operators. 

Chairman Jose Simon of the Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians said: “Don’t believe those false attacks. The Solutions Act protects tribal sovereignty and will allow every tribe – not just those with big casinos close to big cities – a chance to benefit from online sports betting in California.”

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