California Sports Betting Revenue: What Can We Expect in 2020?

Current Gaming Operations in California Content to Sit on the Fence over Sports Betting

California is still on the fence when it comes to legalizing sports betting. There are some heavy hitters already operating under the state’s legal gambling rules that putting up some resistance. Much of the reasoning behind these feelings is associated with revenues.

Currently, card rooms, race tracks and tribal casinos are legal under the California’s gambling laws. The California Gambling Control Commission is essentially the overseer of gambling operation in the state, but no one has been able to police and/or identify all the revenue generating from unregulated operations. The revenue each of these operations generates is enormous. If or when legislation is approved to allow sports betting, these entities realize there will be new players in the game.

These new operations will certainly take a bite out of the overall revenue numbers. It’s important to take a look at the gaming revenue for tribal casinos on a national level to appreciate why there has been little more than lukewarm acceptance of sports betting by these facilities.

California tribal casinos account for more than 25-percent of the national tribal casino revenue report for the entire country. Astonishing as it might seem, it pinpoints one aspect of California betting revenue that cannot be overlooked.

With this much of a financial stake in any proposal to legalize sports betting, legislators in California are well aware of which side their bread’s buttered on. Over the last three-years, tribal casinos have outpaced the rest of the nation by nearly double in revenue growth.

Around five-dozen tribes are operating 73 casinos in California. There are other aspects of betting revenue that do not show up on a simple report. These facilities employ well over 10,000 people across the state.

Another important part of the revenue equation is the Indian Gaming Revenue Sharing Trust Fund. Reports indicate that each tribe with a casino operation in California earns upwards of a million dollars per year.

Revenue numbers for the last fiscal year in California indicate that gaming revenue from the tribal casinos alone was $8.4 billion. It’s easy to see why these operations are going to have strong opinions about sports betting in California.

Many feel that an annual estimate for sports gambling in the fifth largest economy in the world would exceed this mark by more than $4 billion. Logically, a $12 billion industry is going to have would-be players waiting for their own opportunity.

Because of the overall success of the California casino industry without sports betting, many are content to just sit on the fence. That certainly is the motivation behind the lackluster enthusiasm by the three current gaming operations.

With close to $10 billion currently infused into the California economy, many are satisfied to play the waiting game when it comes to legalizing sports betting. No one believes that a potential influx of another $12 billion for sports wagers is automatically going to double total gaming revenue. That’s a strong reason for the current winners to just sit on the fence patiently.