California Sports Betting: Voters decide with 2 Initiatives on November 2022 Ballot

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California sports betting could arrive in the form of retail and online sports betting through servers located on tribal land. California voters will decide on the November 2022 ballot when they can vote on two possible sports betting initiatives. Sports betting could launch as soon as 2023, pending final approval of amended gaming compacts by the US Department of the Interior.

Can I Bet Online In California?

California online betting isn’t available yet; however, DraftKings and FanDuel are behind a proposed ballot initiative that would legalize online sports betting apps statewide through agreements with tribal casinos and their partners.

There is another initiative on the ballot in November 2022. It is supported by the tribes and would amend the state constitution to allow sports betting at various casinos and racetracks around the state. It would not allow for mobile sports betting.

If passed, sports betting at the casinos would be legal on professional and collegiate events. Bets on California college teams would be banned unless they are playing in a tournament.

As it stands now, Californians have to travel to nearby Nevada or Arizona to satisfy their sports betting needs.

California Tribal Sports Betting Initiative

Some of California’s tribes have introduced a sports betting initiative that will appear on the ballot in November. It would allow tribal casinos and horse tracks to offer retail sports betting. If the tribal initiative passes, mobile sports betting will be allowed in California, too. But bettors would likely have an in-person registration requirement. Under this initiative’s terms, major brands like DraftKings and FanDuel would not be able to launch in California, either. The 10% tax on sports betting revenue would fund problem gambling programs, gambling policy enforcement, and the state’s General Fund. 

Mobile Sportsbooks No
Retail SportsbooksYes
Supporters50+ Native American Tribes
Opponents ~8 Private Sportsbook Brands
Tax Rate 10%
Tax Distribution 15% Problem Gambling Programs
15% Gambling Policy Enforcement
70% California General Fund

California Online Sports Betting Initiative

Private sportsbook companies, including DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM, have sponsored their own sports betting initiative. It has one hurdle remaining before getting onto the 2022 ballot. It must have its signatures verified by each county and reported to the secretary of state. If the initiative has enough valid signatures, it will be on California’s ballot.   

The mobile sportsbook initiative will allow mobile sports betting run by private sportsbook companies like DraftKings and FanDuel. California bettors would be able to download sportsbook apps and bet from home. The 15% tax on sports betting revenue would fund problem gambling programs, gambling law enforcement, affordable housing, and tribal development programs to tribes that don’t participate in online sports betting.   

Mobile SportsbooksYes
Retail SportsbooksYes
Supporters~8 Private Sportsbook Operators
Opponents 50+ Native American Tribes
Tax Rate15%
Tax Distribution 85% Affordable Housing
15% Tribes that don't participate in online sports betting

California Sports Betting Timeline

  • May 12, 2022:

    Mary Shaffrey breaks down the California sports betting ballot initiatives, plus a third measure that Californians could see on the ballot in November.

  • March 25, 2022:

    The UCLA men’s basketball team will face North Carolina in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA March Madness tournament. The Bruins are a 2.5-point favorite against the Tar Heels.

  • March 22, 2022:

    Legalizing sports betting will be on the ballot in California this November. The state could see an estimated $3 billion a year.

  • February 23, 2022:

    Californians have mixed opinions when it comes to sports betting, as a new poll from the University of California found 45% of voters support the idea, 33% are opposed and 22% remain undecided.

     

  • January 18, 2022:

    Organizers of the sportsbook ballot initiative supported by DraftKings and FanDuel have 25 percent of the needed 997,139 voter signatures. The signature deadline is May 3, 2022.

  • December 18, 2021:

    California could have several sports betting ballot initiatives during the November 2022 referendum. One industry expert said it won’t be long until legal sports betting is legalized.

     

  • August 31, 2021:

    California now has a third sports betting proposal on the table. The state seems eager to legalize, but various proposals could mean the process takes longer than in other legal markets.

  • August 12, 2021:

    A coalition of California cities, sports leagues, card rooms, and sportsbook operators have announced an initiative for sports betting to appear on the 2022 ballot that would allow for retail and mobile sports betting.

What Are The Best DFS Apps In California?

Although sports betting still has a long way to go in California, daily fantasy sports are currently available. Daily fantasy sports, or DFS, allow players to create fictional teams with players across teams to build the perfect team. If those players perform well, then players will earn points that determine who wins the daily contests. If players know the athletes they choose well, then they can show off their knowledge in these short, intense matches. For interested players, there are two DFS options: DraftKings and FanDuel.

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Top Sportsbooks Likely To Come To California

While California doesn’t yet have any legal sports wagering to speak of, that hasn’t stopped many prospective operators from eyeing the Golden State and its potentially huge sports wagering industry.

As one of the most populous states in the country, California is ripe for gambling expansions. Additionally, many sports wagering enthusiasts are chomping at the bit to enjoy legal sports betting as they currently have to travel across the border to nearby states like Nevada to put money down on their favorite sporting events.

This has created the perfect storm for a speculative sports wagering market. Big operators such as DraftKings and FanDuel, both of which already have a presence in the Golden State due to offering daily fantasy sports, are ready to jump at the chance to apply for state licensure.

However, it’s also likely, given the tribal coalition’s resistance to un-partnered retail or online sports wagering, that any operators who provide sports wagering in California will need to partner with a retail casino to get a license. This won’t stop many big operators, who likely have the funds to handle any licensing fees or splitting of the profits with tribes.

Kindred Group formed a market access partnership with the Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation, making it almost certain that the company will launch its Unibet Sportsbook in California once the state legalizes.

It’s too early to tell which casino operators will be most likely to receive a license ahead of their competitors. But we expect the following operators to pursue licensure at the earliest opportunity regardless:

California Legal Sports Betting Updates

Unfortunately, California’s local Native American tribes have heavily contested new sports wagering legislation, especially online wagering as it would not be under their direct control.

Earlier in January, the controversy surrounding a November 2022 referendum was sparked again. Card room operators petitioned the California Supreme Court to block the vote on one proposal. They argued that it violated the state’s constitution.

However, positive developments have given sports betting enthusiasts reason to be tentatively excited. California sports betting could become a reality in 2023, bringing one of the country’s most populous states into the sports betting fold. There are a few key developments in the state that could make bettors hopeful. A few major cities have pushed for legalization. In late August 2021, a third sports betting proposal, the operator initiative, was filed. This is the initiative awaiting signature verification. 

The two other initiatives, the card room operators and a group of three tribes, failed to make the 2022 ballot. The card room initiative lacked the alliances to gain any real traction. The group of three tribes put an initiative forward that would’ve allowed mobile sports betting controlled by California’s tribes. They later pulled the initiative.

California Teams

If California ever does legalize sports wagering, residents will be able to place wagers on a variety of in-state teams and home franchises.

California Professional Sports Teams

There are 19 professional sports teams located in the Golden State shared by the MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLS leagues. These include the Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Golden State Warriors, Anaheim Ducks, and more.

In fact, it’s surprising that California hasn’t legalized sports wagering given the massive sports fan clubs scattered throughout the state.

California College Sports Teams

Whether you’ll be able to place wagers on college teams is a little more up in the air. Some states, like New Jersey, don’t allow sports bettors to wager on in-state collegiate games or teams.

We will have to wait to see how sports betting legislation shapes up in detail before we can predict whether you’ll be able to place bets on college teams at all, or if you’ll be limited to placing collegiate wagers on out-of-state teams and events.

Other Sports To Bet On In California

Alongside professional and classic American sports like football and baseball, any legal sportsbooks to launch will also allow you to place wagers on a variety of sporting activities including NASCAR races, MMA fights, and international sports like cricket or rugby.

Note that it’s still unclear whether eSports wagers will be allowed although the increased professionalism of this activity means that big operators may indeed offer it in the future.

Are Sportsbooks Legal In California?

The road to legal sports wagering in California is still long and it’ll likely be several months at minimum before sports wagering is legalized, even in the best-case scenario. However, you should still never use an illegal or offshore betting site, even if it may be tempting since there aren’t any legal alternatives in the Golden State right now.

In a nutshell, illegal betting sites are bad news for three key reasons:

  • They don’t provide great betting experiences. Rather than using league odds or professional line-making algorithms, offshore betting sites produce bunk betting odds that don’t provide good wagering action for anyone. Your sports wagering experience will be subpar–guaranteed.
  • They have subpar digital security, as well. This is bad because it leaves your account funds and your personal information up for grabs by cybercriminals. No one wants to deal with identity theft, but it’s much more likely if you give your information to an offshore betting site.
  • They aren’t regulated by any authoritative body. In theory, if they wanted to swindle you and take your account funds, there would be nothing you could do about it.

You’ll indeed need to pay taxes on any winnings you receive from licensed and legitimate sportsbook platforms. But this itself is a form of security; it’s another data point that regulatory organizations can use to make sure that operators don’t steal your winnings or operate unfairly.

All in all, the truth is clear: you should still wait for legal sports wagering to come to California, even if it will be some time yet.

California Sports Betting Revenue

At this point, it’s difficult to say with any certainty the kind of revenue that the California state government could enjoy were it to legalize sports wagering ASAP.

But one industry expert said the state is simply too lucrative as a market for the sports betting industry to ignore.

“The estimate for California is that it could be $20 billion or $30 billion in wagers a year,” said I. Nelson Rose, a professor emeritus at Whittier College and an expert on gambling law and public policy.

We can also make a few predictions based on other data points.

California has a population of nearly 40 million people. It’s the most populous state in the US, surpassing Texas and Florida at 29 and 21.5 million people, respectively. While it is unlikely that everyone in California will participate in sports wagering if it’s ever legalized, a good proportion of its population certainly will.

Then we can look at nearby states like Nevada which already have legal sports betting industries. Recent data from March 2021 shows that Nevada received over $39 million in sports wagering revenue alone. In November 2020, Nevada took home nearly $62 million in sports betting revenue.

These numbers may be a drop in the bucket compared to the long-term earnings that California’s sports wagering industry might bring in once everything is up and running. There’s no doubt that California legislators are keenly aware of these potential earnings, especially since the state government has infamously mismanaged its budget and is in dire need of new income sources.

The potential for sports betting revenue will hopefully accelerate the legalization process.

How California Compares To Other States

California has often touted itself as a progressive paragon of a state, but it’s not exactly the pinnacle of freedom when it comes to online gambling.

For example, nearby Nevada is well known as a retail and online gambling hub. The state government brings in tons of state revenue through taxes from gambling activities every year, particularly through Las Vegas–arguably the world capital of licensed gambling freedom.

Oregon is also a relatively relaxed state in terms of gambling restrictions. You can enjoy online casino games and sports wagering in Oregon. Washington, just north of Oregon, also ranks higher than California. Only Arizona is like California in that its sports wagering industry isn’t up and running. 

That will change soon. It’s clear that California will need to adapt to changing public sentiment across the country if it wants to maintain its reputation as one of the best states in the US.

California Betting Successes and Failures

Although California doesn’t allow any online gambling options, it does have some other areas of success worth noting.

California Sports Betting Successes So Far

Online gambling is still a bust in the Golden State. Gaming enthusiasts are limited to online sweepstakes casino and poker sites. However, the state is a lot more reasonable in other ways, offering card rooms for poker players, tribal casinos for retail casino enthusiasts, a state lottery, and a variety of racetracks where horseracing enthusiasts can place bets all year round.

Additionally, California does allow for online pari-mutuel horse race wagering, provided that it is through licensed operators like TVG. In other words, you can enjoy most traditional gambling activities in California in person at licensed and regulated locations with the sole exception of retail sports betting.

How Could California Do Better

Naturally, California can do a lot better in the online gaming sphere starting with the legalization of online sports betting. Many would also like to see California legalize online casino games and online poker, although it’s unlikely that any significant progress will be made on these fronts in the near future given the historical resistance from the coalition of tribal casinos throughout the state.

If sports betting is a success, other online gaming legalizations will be more likely to follow.

Legalization Effort In California

California Secretary of State Shirley Weber cleared a second tribal-led petition drive to bring sports betting to California on January 11, 2022. Organizers have until July 11, 2022, to gather the 997,139 verified voter signatures needed to get the proposal – called “The Age-Verified Tribal Online And In-Person Sports Wagering Regulatory Act” – on the ballot.

California could have four sports betting ballots in the November 2022 referendum, and one industry expert said it won’t be long until sports gambling is legal.

Earlier in January, the battle surrounding the November 2022 referendum to bring legalized sports betting to California recently became even more convoluted when card room operators asked the California Supreme Court to block the vote on one of several proposals, arguing it violates the state constitution.

How To Place A Bet In California

In states that already have legal sports wagering industries, there are two ways in which they have organized account registration: online-only or in-person required.

Some states, such as Nevada, require individuals to register with a partnered casino or at a retail sportsbook when downloading a mobile sportsbook app. Other states, like New Jersey, allow sports wagerers to complete the registration process entirely online.

Given that any future sportsbooks in California will probably have retail partners at Native American casinos, the state legislature could go either way regarding these restrictions. In any event, the process to place a wager at a California sportsbook will likely look something like this:

Download a Sportsbook

First, you’ll need to download the sportsbook of your choice from any operators that receive licenses in California. If you’re an iPhone user, you’ll be able to download almost any sportsbook without delay; just type in the name of your sports wagering platform into the App Store search bar, download the app, and installation will begin automatically.

If you have an Android device, be aware that the Google Play Store only allows some mobile sportsbooks to be downloaded at this time. By the time California legalizes sports wagering, it may allow all legitimate operators’ books to be downloaded without an issue, in which case you’ll just need to search for the app of your choice and download it to your phone just like iPhone users do.

If you have to download a mobile sportsbook off the Google Play Store, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Visit the desktop website of your sportsbook of choice.
  • Find a “download for Android” page.
  • Download and install the sportsbook from there.

Complete Registration

Downloading a mobile sportsbook is just the start. After installing the sportsbook to your device – it will install geolocation software as well – you can create an account with that sportsbook operator by providing your Social Security number, date of birth, and other key personal information so it can verify your identity and that you are 21 years of age or older.

If California’s future sports wagering legislation requires in-person registration, you’ll also need to drive to the casino with which your sportsbook is partnered and have them verify your identity before registration finishes. With luck, California legislators will require this, and you’ll be able to complete the registration process entirely from the comfort of your own couch.

Fund Your Account

After making your account, you’ll need to provide it with funding so you can place a wager. Top sportsbooks provide a variety of deposit and withdrawal methods, like transfers from credit or debit cards or direct transfers from a linked bank account. Be sure to check out which deposit methods a sportsbook offers before downloading it so you pick up the platform that’s best suited for your needs and funding style.

Don’t forget to look into opening bonuses. Many top sportsbooks provide attractive opening bonuses for new account holders. The opening bonuses might give you site credit, free bets, or something else entirely. The opening bonuses available can help you pick between two different sports betting platforms.

However, most apps require you to input a code, make a particular wager, or deposit a certain amount of money to qualify. With this in mind, choose your sportsbook carefully, and don’t forget to pick up any opening bonuses you might qualify for before they expire.

Place A Bet

If you make it this far, you’ll be able to place a bet in no time. Once you fund your account and take advantage of any opening bonuses that may apply, you’ll be able to browse betting lines and put money down on upcoming sporting events with a touch of a few buttons.

California Sports Betting FAQs

Is online sports betting legal in California?

Not yet, but sports betting is scheduled to be on the 2022 referendum ballot. 

How old do I have to be to bet online in California?

At this time, you have to be 18 years of age or older to gamble in California by state law although most retail casinos set the minimum age to either 19 or 21. This does mean you can get into many card rooms when you are 18, however.

Who regulates the online sportsbooks in California?

The California Gaming Control Commission currently regulates all other gambling activities in the state. It’s likely that this organization will also regulate online sportsbooks when they finally launch.

Will you need to be a resident of California to place bets online?

No. Although you do not need to be a resident of California, you will need to be physically located in the state. Any future California mobile sportsbook will include geolocation software that will track your location and prevent you from placing wagers outside state lines. This is standard across the mobile sports betting industry. 

What sports and events will you be able to bet on in California once sports wagering is legalized?

It’s likely that you’ll be able to place wagers on most major sporting activities and leagues including the NFL, NBA, and MLB. California may limit betting on collegiate sporting events, however.

Is it safe to use online sportsbook apps in California?

Provided they are fully licensed and regulated, yes. Legal sportsbooks use a variety of security methods, such as SSL certification and partnerships with cybersecurity firms, to protect their users and their corporate databases. Identity theft or loss of your winnings is incredibly unlikely as a result.

About the Author

Amber Hoffman

Amber is the Managing Editor of Gaming Today. She writes for a variety of websites in diverse industries, including gaming and travel and is a fan of international football (not "soccer") and Gaelic sports.

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