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California Sports Betting

Updated: September 1, 2021

Despite being the United States’ most populous state with nearly 40 million residents, sports betting in California has yet to be approved since PASPA was overturned two years ago.

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was overturned on May 14, 2018. As a result, each US state is permitted to propose and create its own laws and regulations for sports betting.

Currently, gambling in California is limited to tribal casinos, card rooms, the state lottery, charitable gaming, pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing, and daily fantasy sports. Luckily for Californian sports bettors, their neighboring states, Nevada and Oregon, offer legal sports betting.

Right now, even legalizing online poker has faced pushback with multiple failed bills and no agreement between California gaming stakeholders.

That being said, efforts to regulate sports wagering in California are active. Tribes in California have expressed their desire to be the sole sports betting provider. Until the COVID-19 pandemic, they had gathered nearly 1 million signatures in an effort to make the ballot in November 2020.

As an advocate of sports betting at both tribal casinos and commercial sportsbooks, state senator Bill Dodd sponsored a bill to regulate online and mobile sports gambling in 2020. However, it too stalled because of coronavirus.

Though there is adamant support of regulated sports betting in California, online and mobile gambling continues to be the root issue; tribal casinos insist online gambling can act as a gateway for underage gambling.

When Will Online Sports Betting Be Legal in California?

It’s estimated that Californians currently gamble $10 million per year illegally already. With the state facing an estimated $54 billion deficit and sports wagering anticipated to bring in between $500-700 million in state taxes annually, there is a considerable push to see sports betting legalized in the Golden State.

Should the current joint bill between the House Assembly and Senate pass, it would allow horse racing tracks as well as tribal casinos to offer sports betting. Tribal casinos would also be able to offer table games like craps and roulette, though California card rooms would not be allowed to offer sports wagering.

And herein lies a problem. Tribal casinos believe the player-banked card rooms (think blackjack, three-card poker, baccarat, and pai gow) should be illegal, as the games violate their exclusive rights to host such games.

However, card rooms have evaded these laws by hiring third-party dealers to run the games, a move that has proved acceptable in California. The Yocha Dehe tribe in particular has taken great exception to this and even filed a lawsuit in 2019, which was later dismissed.

The passing of this new bill would give tribal casinos the right to offer sports betting and table games, but also take away their right to sue card rooms.

As recently as June 9, amendments were made to the bill SCA 6 by Dodd to try to appease the tribes by putting some limits and restrictions on the cardrooms going forward. The amendments were not greeted with enthusiasm by the cardrooms, though they were open to further discussion in order to push the bill forward. The tribes, however, did not feel amendments were nearly enough.

Tribes were also concerned that mobile wagering would infringe on their current brick-and-mortar casinos. As such, an amendment was put forth to gradually roll out online sports betting all the way into 2023. Not great news for Californians hoping to have online sports betting from the phones anytime soon.

The other hurdle is that should the bill pass, it is still a constitutional amendment that will need to win a two-thirds majority vote in the House Assembly and Senate. From there, it will need to go to the voters and pass as a proposition on the ballot, which would likely be in November.

While legalized wagering in California still has many steps ahead of it, the possible tax windfall is likely too large to pass up for much longer. With 19 professional sports teams in the state, the appetite for sports betting would likely be large. Don’t be surprised to see a form of at least in-person sports betting legalized sometime later in 2021.

Until that time comes, Californians can make the trip to the Grand Canyon State when sports betting Arizona launches on September 9, 2021.

California Sports Betting FAQs

Can you bet on sports in California?

Despite being the most populous state in America, sports betting is still currently illegal in California.

Is California still in a deficit?

California is suffering from a $54.3 billion deficit with the coronavirus devastating the nation’s economy. The deficit is the worst California has faced since the Great Recession.

Is DraftKings Sportsbook legal in California?

DraftKings’ daily fantasy sports games are legal for Californians to participate in.