New California Gold Rush coming

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A new decade is upon us and with it is likely to come a 21st Century Gold Rush in California.

The legalized sports betting wave is going to hit the Golden State and when it does, look out. From Eureka to San Diego, the revenues that could be generated from booking bets could be immense for a state that struggles to generate new revenue streams.

But it won’t come easy. Nothing in California does. The politics are going to be a major factor in getting sports betting to become a reality. It is already underway as the Native American tribes are driving the proposed legislation to bring sports betting to their casinos. They are partnering with the racetracks in their endeavor.

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On the flip side, the card rooms are fighting to get in on the action and it made an already contentious relationship with the tribes even more so. The tribes have powerful lobbyists in Sacramento and they are going to be the major player in all this.

Currently, the referendum calls for betting on pro sports only. No colleges. Also, the phone betting would be restricted to being on the Native American tribal lands where the casinos are located.

I would expect that to change before the final initiative makes the ballot in November. California would be foolhardy to shortchange itself. It should look to its neighbor, Nevada, as a blueprint for how to legislate, regulate and operate when it comes to a sportsbook.

But the anticipated Gold Rush won’t be restricted to California. I expect Florida to have legalized sports betting in the next couple of years. At some point, New York will expand its current restrictive parameters beyond four upstate casinos and also initiate mobile betting. There’s talk of adding three casino licenses in New York City and perhaps those casinos will have sportsbooks.

A sportsbook in Manhattan? Yeah, I think that might work.

I would think Texas will get involved in sports betting. And once that happens, we’re talking the most populous states in the country all booking bets. In fact, 10 years from now, I wouldn’t be shocked if every state in the union has some form of sports betting, even Utah.

After all, who thought we’d see the day when there’d be sports betting beyond Nevada? But as we enter the new decade, 20 states plus the District of Columbia are either operating sportsbooks or are about to begin operations.

Change is inevitable, slow as it may sometimes be. Did you ever think the NFL or the NCAA would want to do business with Las Vegas? Now, the Raiders are moving here, the NFL Draft will be here in April and the Super Bowl will be coming to Allegiant Stadium.

The NCAA is going to accept bids for Las Vegas to host championship events. And given its anti-gambling stance, not to mention its contentious relationship with the city over the decades from its dealing with UNLV and specifically, Jerry Tarkanian, the notion the NCAA would do business in Vegas seemed preposterous.

Yet here we are. We will probably see the Final Four played here during the new Roaring Twenties. Maybe by then UNLV will be competitive again and be able to make a run to Russell Road.

And when it happens, you won’t have to come to Vegas to bet on the game. You’ll be able to pick up your phone and click on to whatever app you choose from your living room couch in Illinois or Maryland and be in action.

Or when you attend a sporting event, you’ll be able to make a bet inside the stadium or arena. My guess is before the decade is over, all sports facilities that house major league professional teams will have a sportsbook, much like soccer stadiums in Europe do. And no one will give it a second thought. It’ll be one more perk to make it convenient for the fan to enhance their visit.

For Nevada, Las Vegas specifically, this will be a decade of challenges. What will the city do to maintain its allure to attract the 41 million visitors it currently lures? How will it re-invent itself? How will competition from California impact the sportsbook industry here and how will it react?

One thing I know from having lived here since 1988, Vegas never sits still. It will not stand idly by and allow the competition to overtake it.

What will it do? Stick around and find out.

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About the Author

Steve Carp

Steve Carp is a six-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year. A 30-year veteran of the Las Vegas sports journalism scene, he covered the Vegas Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2018.

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