Experts ‘Bullish’ On California Sports Betting, Other State Expansions Too

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Sports betting is a growing market and it’s only going to get bigger. That’s the takeaway from a virtual conference today between leading stakeholders and experts in the industry. 

While Arizona, Florida, Connecticut, and Ohio have taken positive steps in 2021, there are still states where action is expected in the coming months and years. 

California Sports Betting On The Horizon

“California is the next crown jewel,” Martin Lycka, senior vice president of American regulatory affairs at Entain, told attendees to the Gambling Industry Summit for North America, put on by Gaming Americas. “California will have a chance to reflect (the state’s diversity.”)

Mario Malave, co-founder and CEO of Wagr, agreed.

“I’m very bullish on California,” he said. 

He noted the state has a huge fan base for Major League Soccer and that several cities will take part in hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Both of these are only going to increase fan interest and will tap a thus-far mostly ignored group of likely sports bettors.

What California Sports Betting Could Look Like

California residents are expected to vote on a statewide referendum on whether or not to approve sports betting — and other gambling opportunities — on tribal lands during the November 2022 general election. Since the initiative involves tribal lands, whatever is passed will have to fall within the parameters of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.  

The tribes are likely to be opposed to anything that would cut into their profits from retail sportsbooks, meaning online sports betting is not a lock. The uncertainty leaves businesses at a loss.

Elizabeth Suever, vice president of government relations for Bally’s, said the landscape is challenging and they don’t know what to prepare for. 

“Any operator is looking at the space, and there are so many unanswered questions,” she said. 

Daniel Wallach, an sports gambling legal expert, noted state lawmakers could approve sports betting separate from the other gambling opportunities because the California state constitution does not address sports betting. 

Texas Sports Betting Punted Until 2023

No one argues that Texas residents aren’t making sports bets. They are just crossing state lines to place bets in states where it’s legal or doing offshore.  

The Texas Legislature has adjourned for 2021 and because it only meets every other year, nothing is expected in the state until 2023 at the earliest. 

That said, experts believe momentum is building in a way that they did not expect even five years ago.

“A lot of work has been done in Texa,” said Lycka.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) has made clear he is opposed to sports betting and vowed in 2021 that no relevant legislation would not see the light of day.  

But money talks and with the expansion of licenses and skins to professional sports teams, some believe fans in Texas will start clamoring for the same options as are available in Maryland and other states where skins are tied to professional teams.

About the Author

Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary Shaffrey is an award-winning journalist who co-authored "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Government." She has spent more than 20 years covering government, both at the state and federal level. As a fan of the Baltimore Orioles and the Providence College Friars she feels cursed. Luckily she is a hockey mom too so her spirits aren't totally shot.

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