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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 sports betting initiatives, Prop 26 and Prop 27. Sports betting could launch as soon as 2023, pending final approval of amended gaming compacts by the US Department of the Interior.

If either prop passes, sports betting would be legal on professional and collegiate events. Bets on California college teams would be banned unless they are playing in a tournament.

Prop 26: California Tribal Sports Betting Initiative

Most of California’s gaming tribes back Prop 26, which would allow tribal casinos and horse racetracks to offer retail sports betting. Under this initiative’s terms, online sports betting would not be allowed, dealing a blow to major sportsbook brands like DraftKings and FanDuel. The 10% tax on sports betting revenue would fund problem gambling programs, gambling policy enforcement, and the state’s General Fund. 

Rebecca Hanchett has a detailed report on the Prop 26 initiative.

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

Prop 27: California Mobile Sports Betting Initiative

Private sportsbook companies, including DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM, have sponsored their own sports betting initiative, Prop 27, on the November 2022 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 10% tax on sports betting revenue would fund problem gambling programs, gambling law enforcement, affordable housing, and California tribal development programs to tribes that don’t participate in online sports betting.   

Mary Shaffrey has a detailed report on the Prop 27 initiative.

Prop 27
Mobile SportsbooksYes
Retail SportsbooksNo
Supporters~8 Private Sportsbook Operators
Opponents 50+ Native American Tribes
Tax Rate10%
Tax Distribution 85% Affordable Housing
15% Tribes that don't participate in online sports betting

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California Sports Betting Updates

Top Sportsbooks Likely to Come to California

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

As the most populous state 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 betting market. Big operators such as DraftKings and FanDuel, both of which already have a presence in California due to offering DFS, are ready to jump at the chance to apply for state licensure.

If the sportsbooks get their way and Prop 27 passes, they will have to partner with a tribal casino in California in order to offer online sports betting.

For instance: 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

It all comes down to Nov. 8, 2022. The California tribes-backed Prop 26 vs. the mobile sportsbooks-backed Prop 27.

There is a slim chance neither prop passes, so sports betting of some kind is very likely coming soon to California. There is a chance that both props pass, which could lead to a legal battle. That’s because the language in Prop 26 stipulates that there can be no online sports betting in California, but Prop 27 would allow just that. 

Two other initiatives, from California’s 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 betting, 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 California playing in 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 betting in California is nearing its home stretch, although it still might not launch until 2023. While you wait, 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 California 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.

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.

The most recent numbers reported by the American Gaming Association show California’s tribal casinos generate an estimated $8.41 billion in annual gaming revenue.

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 betting 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.

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

Gaming enthusiasts are limited to online sweepstakes casino and poker sites in California. 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 horse race betting enthusiasts can place bets all year round.

Additionally, California does allow for online pari-mutuel horse race betting, 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

The effort to legalize sports betting in California is nearing its completion — even if that completion may not occur until 2023. In on Nov. 8, California voters will have the option to vote for Prop 26 or Prop 27.

Prop 26, backed by most of California’s gaming tribes, would allow sports betting at retail casinos only.

Prop 27, backed by mobile sportsbook operators, would allow for online sports betting.

The most likely scenario is that one prop passes. Both could also pass, but that would likely lead to a legal battle. It’s highly unlikely that neither prop passes, as the sports betting momentum in the US is quite strong.

How to Place a Bet in California

New to sports betting? 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

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

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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 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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