At the time of writing (10th March 2022) no legal sports betting is permitted in California.
In terms of desire and willingness, there are probably few states in the Union that are more eager to be allowed to launch legal sports betting via online sportsbooks or retail sports betting sites.
California has around 40 million residents, major sports franchises, and more professional sports teams than any other state.
Almost 20 in fact
From the San Jose Sharks to the Oakland Athletics. The Los Angeles Clippers to the San Francisco Giants.
There are also lots of top college teams and huge levels of general interest throughout the state.
Punters in the Golden State who want to get a little action on their favorite sports are forced to travel to one of the bordering states. Arizona, Nevada, or Oregon.
Those adjacent states have managed to get their acts together and now permit punters to place various kinds of legal sports bets.
Are Golden State Warriors’ fans going to make the trek to Nevada just to lay a few dollars on their team to beat the Los Angeles Lakers?
Of course not
Making online sports betting legal would clearly create a vast amount of wealth in such a sports-obsessed part of the country.
AND THAT IS ONE MAJOR REASON WHY IT STILL HASN’T HAPPENED…
Where deep, wide pools of money are created, many creatures will come to slake their thirsts.
Sadly, many of those thirsts appear to be insatiable
Sports betting in Florida is brought to mind. Struggles to come to agreements that will permit legalized sports betting there have been many and complex. There are moral and ethical objectors.
Those who object because it might infringe upon their own rivers of cash that have flowed unimpeded for decades.
Those that see the chance to stuff more into their already brimming pockets, and who are prepared to bring the whole concept to its knees if they don’t get the recognition (money) they feel they deserve.
In this article, we’ll attempt to give a detailed description of the state of play in California. Any key events leading up to this point and how the situation might develop in the future.
HAVE THERE BEEN PREVIOUS EFFORTS TO LEGALIZE SPORTS BETTING IN CALIFORNIA?
In 2017, a member of the Californian assembly tried to introduce a constitutional amendment. It was based on the premise that the US Supreme Court might overturn the Professional and amateur sports act (PASPA), which it duly did in 2018.
The proposed amendment would allow for legalized sports betting in California should that happen but it was not approved.
In 2019, bills were proposed to include a ballot question about legalizing sports betting.
This initiative was scuppered by another. Local native tribes preferred to have things their way instead. Their initiative would limit sports betting to tribal casinos and horse racing facilities only.
World events conspired against them and the Covid 19 pandemic arrived. This meant they could not solicit the required number of signatures in time for it to be considered and the concept was never included on the 2020 ballot.
The originally proposed bills were not done yet and caveats allowing for tribal casinos and racetracks to offer both retail and online sports betting were added.
The bill also proposed legal support for the state’s card rooms. The tribes objected to this and the bills never received their blessing.
It became obvious that the legislation would not make the deadline to be included on the November ballot. The bill was dropped.
WE TOLD YOU IT WAS COMPLICATED…
The local tribes refocused their sights on getting their own initiative onto the Nov 2022 ballot and were eventually successful.
No specific sports legislation exists as yet but ballot initiatives that could lead down that route if they pass are an important step forwards.
Other potential initiatives may still find their way onto the November ballot but this is still very much a speculative notion.
Each group has its own agenda and sphere of influence. Each prefers its own sports betting structure and bitter conflict and debate are almost guaranteed.
If only all the greedy piggies could learn to share the riches of the trough then this would have been a done-deal months ago…
WHAT ARE CURRENT SPORTS BETTING BALLOT INITIATIVES IN CALIFORNIA?
As mentioned, there are a number of initiatives that would lead to legalized gambling of one form or another in California. Let’s take a closer look at them and see what each has to offer.
Only the first of these is already guaranteed to appear on the ballot. We will also give you the statuses of the others.
Supporters of three other sports betting plans are now working to gather the required signatures to get their initiatives on the ballot. Voters will likely know by late June 2022 which of the initiatives made it onto the ballot.
As noted, at least one sports betting initiative has already assured a spot on the November 2022 ballot.
CALIFORNIA INITIATIVE TO LEGALIZE SPORTS BETTING ON INDIAN LANDS
Otherwise known as the “Tribal coalition plan”, this particular initiative is the first one listed here that has already secured its place on the 2022 ballot.
The coalition consists of 18 native Californian tribes and refers to itself as the “Coalition to authorise regulated sports betting”.
The coalition obtained the requisite number of signatures to be included on the ballot over a year beforehand in May 2021.
As mentioned briefly earlier, the plan would legalize sports betting in a limited way. It would be available only in-person at retail sportsbooks in tribal casinos and horse racing tracks.
The initiative also states that no online sports betting would be permitted in California for 5 – 10 years. It would also remove the ban on games where dice or a ball are utilized. Traditional roulette and craps tables would, presumably, be introduced in their existing casinos with great haste.
Any revenue created by sports betting would be subject to a tax rate of 10%
Unsurprisingly, the tribes do not have any authorization planned for California’s many card rooms, since the rooms’ very existence has been a source of contention for the tribes for many years.
The main opponents to this initiative are 2 Californian card rooms. No allowance for them is included in the tribal coalition plan and they are, unsurprisingly, not happy about that. They are suing to prevent the initiative from being heard.
Now, it seems that the coalition to authorise regulated sports betting has a little bit of disparity in how they see things proceeding. Perhaps they are just hedging their bets.
Whether there is wider agreement among all 18 tribes and this is merely a legal formality is unclear. The internal machinations of the tribal situation are beyond the reach of the team here at The Jump Hub. Suffice it to say that they are giving themselves the best of both worlds with this development:
Three of the original coalition tribes also have a second initiative in the pipeline. A fourth joined at a later date. One that also allows for online sports betting. Chronologically, it does not appear second in this list. However, as it is proposed by members of the original tribal coalition, we include it here for the sake of simplicity.
TRIBAL GOVERNMENT MOBILE AND RETAIL SPORTS BETTING INITIATIVE
Known as the “three tribes plan” or “second tribal proposal”, this initiative was submitted a full year before the ballot is due to take place, in November 2021.
This would have all the same conditions as their first initiative.
The only difference is that, instead of prohibiting online sports betting for at least half a decade, this would effectively give the tribes full and exclusive rights to offer legalized online sports betting in California.
Their proposal states that any California tribe could:
“OFFER ONLINE SPORTS WAGERS ENTIRELY OFF OF INDIAN LANDS AND NOT BE SUBJECT TO THE INDIAN GAMING REGULATORY ACT.”
They include agreements to give more of the created revenue away.
Mental illness and homelessness are shockingly prevalent issues that they would like to benefit
Initiatives generally have 6 months to gather all the signatures that they need to force their way onto the ballot and it seems they may have left it a little late for that. The end of June marks their deadline to submit.
Aside from this logistical issue, it seems likely that the conflicting nature of the initiative with pre-existing ones might preclude it from being heard. Time will tell.
LEGALIZE SPORTS BETTING INITIATIVE
Known as the “card-room plan” or “cities plan”, it’s not hard to imagine that this particular initiative has the backing of most of the state’s card rooms.
It also has backing from the cities where those rooms operate. The deadline for this group to solicit enough signatures to be admitted is looming (April 18th 2022) so it may go all the way to the wire.
This proposal does not seek the exclusivity of the tribal options. It would allow card rooms, tribal casinos, racetracks, and professional sports teams to offer both onsite retail and online sports betting.
In-state college teams are often subject to legal and regulatory restrictions of the amateur sports protection act. When states do allow legal sports betting, some of them have blanket bans on college betting. Others restrict laying certain types of bets on college games or player prop bets.
While the fine-print details are not yet clear to us, there would also be a provision for betting on in-state college teams in this proposal.
THE PROPOSAL ORIGINALLY OFFERED A TAX RATE ON ANY REVENUE OF A WHOPPING 25%
That was later revised down to 15% + 1% towards funding problem gambling programs in California.
Just as the card rooms are opposed to the tribal coalition’s offering, so are the tribes opposed to this one. Antagonism between the sides has not been absent over the years so there is little surprise to be found in this. Just infinite frustration and anguish…
TIT FOR TAT AND ALL THAT
It seems that, as with all things in the good old US of A – money talks.
This initiative has the least backing financially and is, therefore, less likely to be heard.
BECAUSE THAT’S HOW DEMOCRACY IS SUPPOSED TO WORK…
LEGALIZE SPORTS BETTING AND REVENUE FOR HOMELESSNESS PREVENTION FUND INITIATIVE
The final sports betting initiative we have for you today, folks:
The initiative known as the “homeless prevention plan” or “online sportsbooks plan”
This particular proposal would again allow only the tribes to operate sportsbooks. The difference is that they would be limited to online-only sports betting.
A $100 million license fee would be required to qualify, plus an annual fee of $10 million to renew it.
THE PLAN OFFERS 10% TAX ON THE ACQUIRED REVENUE AND ON THE REQUIRED LICENSE FEES
After expenses, 85% of the remaining money would be pumped into homelessness programs in the state. 15% would go to tribes with no vested interests in the scheme.
Many of the largest sportsbooks in the United States are all over this initiative. Including DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM and other big-hitters.
A coalition of mayors from towns and cities around California has come together to back this particular proposal and it seems there is a decent chance it will be heard. May 3rd 2022 marks their deadline to gather the required signatures.
HOW DOES THE FUTURE LOOK FOR ONLINE SPORTS BETTING IN CALIFORNIA?
If the tribal coalition’s first initiative is accepted and eventually becomes law then the answer is – not great to be honest.
There will be no legal online sports betting in California for a further 5 -10 years.
As with any state that prohibits legal online sports betting, however, there are many offshore betting sites that will happily take your money.
BUT THAT’S THE PROBLEM
As unregulated, unlicensed gambling sites they can just literally take your money and disappear. Their network security may not be adequate (deliberately or otherwise). The chances of your details being stolen are vastly increased.
You have zero recourse of action should either of those things happen and it is not a sensible option to take.
For a comprehensive look at the gambling options in each state, see our article – What states allow sports betting? – for a great view and deeper understanding of the situation as it currently stands.
Online sports wagering still seems like a rather distant pipe-dream in the glorious golden state. California law prohibits sports gambling. It doesn’t seem like any satisfactory sports betting legislation will change that in the near future.
Hope does remain, and the potential for vast sums of sports betting revenue means that an agreement always has a chance.
Even if the reason it has stalled so far is that nobody wants to concede a bigger piece of that sweet, sweet pie to other concerns than they have to.
The fact that they would have all made many times more than they gave away to the competition had they chosen to agree years ago seems beyond anybody’s comprehension.
In the modern world, people want the option to consume their chosen sports online. They want to be able to use online sportsbook apps to get some skin in the game if they so desire.
Until the conflicting parties can reach a compromise about sports gambling in California that option seems maddeningly far away.