California Sports Betting

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Although California might be the state most primed for a future sports betting industry, sports wagering is currently not legal in the Golden State. As a result, California gambling enthusiasts have to travel to nearby Nevada or other states to get their sports betting fix until California sports betting launches.

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. However, recent developments give sports betting hopefuls reason to be tentatively excited. California sports betting could become a reality in 2022, 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 majors cities have pushed for legalization. And in late August 2021, a third sports betting proposal was filed. Whether any of the state’s sports betting initiatives live to see legalization remains to be seen. But all signs are pointing toward some sort of approval in the mid-future. 

However, California’s recall election could complicate legal sports betting efforts. If voters recall Gavin Newsom, the favorite candidate to replace him is conservative, Larry Elder. Elder opposes gambling, so sports betting proposals could die on the Governor’s desk if he’s elected. So, Governor Newsom remains bettors’ best hope for legalized sports betting.

Let’s take a closer look at the current options for sports betting in California so you know how to set your expectations over the next few months.

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California Sports Betting: Recent Updates

  • September 14, 2021:

    Californians will vote on whether to recall Governor Newsom and who his replacement should be if he is recalled. A majority is required to recall Governor Newsom. A plurality is required for his replacement.

  • 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.

  • July 29, 2021:

    Rumors are swirling that California could have another ballot measure proposal reflecting a similar initiative in Florida by DraftKings and Fanduel allowing for mobile sports betting, unlike the land-based tribal referendum.

  • June 25, 2021:

    With a recall election on the way, some California sports betting hopefuls think the issue could make ballot earlier than 2022. But is that even possible?

  • June 22, 2021:

    Some experts are bullish on California sports betting, which could be on the ballot sooner than 2022 thanks to an upcoming recall election.

  • May 27, 2021:

    California’s sports betting initiative received enough signatures (1,061,282) to make it to the 2022 ballot. California citizens will vote on the referendum next year.

  • March 31, 2021:

    California sports betting could make it to the ballot sooner than 2022 if the state decides to hold a recall election for Governor Gavin Newsom. That ballot could include sports betting.

  • February 9, 2021:

    Kindred, best known for its Unibet online casino in the US, formed a partnership with the Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation. The partnership gives Kindred market access in California, if and when online gambling becomes legal in the state.

  • November 2, 2020:

    California’s tribal coalition proposed a replacement tribal-state sports betting compact and intended to place the measure on the state ballot in November 2020. The compact would have required sports wagering sites to be on tribal grounds only, giving 109 officially recognized tribals exclusive dominion over California sports betting. The pandemic put a hold on this effort, and the issue never made ballot.

     

     

     

  • November 1, 2020:

    A prospective ballot measure surfaced in November 2020, giving Californians hope for sports betting in the state. Changes to the state laws regarding sports wagering require a referendum in which California citizens vote. The measure failed to reach the ballot, however, due to opposition from the state’s Native American tribes and other factors.

California Daily Fantasy Sports

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.

DraftKings DFS

Sports bettors and sports fans alike recognize DraftKings DFS. It’s one of the most popular online sports games in the country. Players can enter daily contests to try to rack up points on games that day. Winners are eligible for real cash prizes. DraftKings offers new DFS players a $500 deposit bonus. Players get their deposits matched at a 20% rate. However, there’s also a playthrough requirement. Players will get $1 in credit for every $25 they use.

FanDuel DFS

FanDuel is the other major DFS brand that sports bettors and fans will know. FanDuel and DraftKings comprise 90% of the DFS market, so players would have to be living under a rock not to know either. Like DraftKings, FanDuel offers short contests where players can build their rosters and compete in daily fantasy contests. Racking up points is difficult, but a healthy base of knowledge can give players a more consistent edge. FanDuel offers new DFS players a $500 deposit bonus with a 20% match rate.

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:

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 Legal Sportsbooks

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 we can 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

Sports wagering legalization has been attempted in the Golden State before. In 2020, the state legislature put together a provisional compact between the state government and the tribal casinos that dominate retail casino gaming in the area.

The prospective bill, if it had been approved by voter referendum in the 2020 election, would have allowed for both retail and online sports wagering through approved operators and potential partnerships with tribal casinos.

However, this proposal was shot down by a coalition of 69 tribal casinos, that replaced it with their own version. By late 2020, the tribal coalition attempted to get their new referendum on the November 2020 ballot which would in theory allow for a 2021 launch of both tribal-owned sportsbook locations.

COVID-19 delayed things enough that the referendum was unfortunately not on the November 2020 ballot. As a result, and per California law, the next available date for the tribal referendum to appear is November 2022 which is when the next ballot will appear for statewide elections.

However, the ongoing attempt to remove Gov. Newsom could delay sports betting legalization efforts further. Larry Elder, the favorite to replace Gov. Newsom in a successful recall, has stated his opposition to gambling. If voters approve sports betting through a referendum, then Elder’s hands would be tied. But bettors should expect him to drum up opposition to sports betting legalization in the meantime. Bettors will have to wait for the recall election. If Gov. Newsom remains in office, bettors could have to wait until November 2022 for further word of legalization.

Timeline Of California Sports Betting

  • March 2020 – The state government and tribal coalitions compete to get sports wagering bills completed to be placed on the November 2020 ballot as a referendum. The tribal referendum wins out due to intense pressure from California’s tribal casino organizations.
  • Nov 2020 – The year’s ballot is produced without the sports betting referendum due to delays from the pandemic.
  • April 2021 – California tribes collect signatures in an attempt to get the referendum on the upcoming November 2022 ballot.

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.

California Sports Betting FAQs

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.

Is online sports betting legal in California?

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

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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