California has the second-largest casino industry in the United States, second to only Nevada. There are more than 50 tribal casinos and more than 90 cardrooms operating in California. Tribal casinos offer virtually all forms of gambling (slots, card games, bingo, etc.) while cardrooms can offer “non-banked” games such as poker. Then there are racetracks in the state where betting on horses is allowed. One thing is missing from all three of these major gambling facilities: legal sports betting.
Legal Guides to California Betting
While not written into law, Daily Fantasy Sports Operators have been active for years.
Not legal yet, but many believe a change in law may be coming in next 5 years.
Tribal Casinos are prevalent throughout the state with over 70 locations to choose from.
CA Lottery is one of the biggest in the country, but no official online option yet.
Available and legal throughout California, Horse Racing is a CA betting staple.
Online poker is not legal, but there over 60 legal cardrooms in the state and many more illegal.
1. Is sports betting legal in California?
Officially under state law, sports’ betting in California is not legal. There was a lot of hope the process would be further along than it is today, but for now, sports bettors will still need to make a trip to Vegas, or use other options that simply are not currently regulated or illegal.
2. Will Sports Betting Be Legal in 2019 in CA?
This is a pretty easy question to answer. Even if the California Sports Betting Initiative had been successful, there was no legal way sports betting could have been approved for 2019. With the failure of the proposal, it most likely will not happen in 2020 either.
3. Is there a Sports Betting Initiative on the 2020 Ballot?
The California Sports Betting Initiative had everything a California sports bettor could have asked for. It would have amended the necessary aspects of the state constitution to allow sportsbooks initially, and online betting eventually. The key words here are would have. The initiative failed, so it will not make it to a ballot in 2020. But, there is a great deal of hope for 2021.
4. How Much Tax Revenue Will CA Make from Sports Betting?
One huge number to consider is the 16-percent share of the overall US economy. Match that with California having 12-percent of the total population and you immediately should see how much potential there is for huge sports’ betting revenue intake in the Golden State.
Now, let’s take that one step further. California not only has the biggest economy in the US, they have the fifth biggest economy in the world. Simple population and economic comparisons with states such as New Jersey would certainly leave a sports’ betting advocate wide-eyed.
On a national scale, the California tribal casino revenue is biggest in the nation at roughly $7 billion annually. New Jersey bettors threw in more than a $1 billion during a shortened 2018. Early 2019 financial reports on sports betting are even more favorable.
Can you read the writing on the wall now for California? Tax revenue generated from sports betting in California could be staggering.
5. Why are Racetracks & Lotteries Legal in CA?
To understand why certain types of gambling are legal in California, we need to look at the geographic and demographic picture of the state. Most of the state has a temperate climate. This is perfect for horse racing operations.
Second, California has the largest Native American population in the country. When tribal gambling laws were passed across the United States, California’s Native American population was a huge benefactor.
As for the lottery system, California’s legislative body really did little more than climb on board the wave of national interest in state-operated lotteries. Even then, California was nearly a decade behind the early lottery active states. The California State Lottery Act of 1984 started the ball rolling towards what is now a billion-dollar a year operation for the state.
6. Can I use FanDuel sportsbook in California?
No, you can only use the FanDuel sportsbook within the boundaries of a state that has not only legalized physical sportsbooks, but also has legislative provisions for online sports betting operations within the state.
7. Can I use DraftKings sportsbook in California?
No again. DraftKings can only offer sportsbook betting within states where sports betting legislation has been passed or it is not officially illegal. However, there is some indication a change could be forthcoming, and it’s actually because of laws that are not on the California books.
8. Is online gambling legal in California?
Maybe a good sign for sports betting advocates is the California policy towards online gambling in general. The fact is, there is no legislation at all. There have been proposals to enact regulations that would oversee online gambling in the state, but for now there is nothing. It is not a crime for California residents to gamble online at any site.
9. Are Offshore Sportsbooks like Bovada, MyBookie & BetOnline Legal in California?
Using an offshore sportsbook to place bets in California is also not explicitly against state law. However, the waters are a muddy in every state because of a 1961 federal law called the Wire Act. When it comes down to it, it is likely illegally to deposit and withdraw money from an offshore betting website. The May 2018 overturning of a ban on sports gambling allows for states to choose, but it still not legal to bet online across state lines.
10. Is Daily Fantasy Sports Legal in California?
While there is no law making daily fantasy sports (DFS) legal in California, there also isn’t any law making it a crime to play. DFS sites will accept California players. Lawmakers have been kicking legislation around to make it legal and regulate DFS for roughly four years, but nothing has become official.
11. Is Online Poker Legal in California?
Online poker is part of the overall gambling picture in California. There is no law on the books that makes online gambling of any kind illegal in California, and online poker falls within this category. Real money poker is legal at card rooms, but there is nothing to prevent Californians from playing online as well.
12. What are California Card Rooms?
There are roughly 100 legally licensed card rooms in California. The Division of Gambling Control regulates this list, and any card room not licensed is illegal. Essentially, card rooms are facilities that have applied for and been granted a license to operate legal poker type games in California.
13. How Many Tribal Casinos are there in California?
Out of the more than 100 Native American tribes in California, 62 operate casinos. There are a total of 69 casinos in the state. Fifty of these are Indian casinos, and 16 are Indian casino resorts. There are also three mini-tribal casinos.
14. Do Tribal Casinos offer Sports Betting?
Currently, the tribal casinos do not offer sportsbooks. In fact, theirs was one of the voices that helped prevent legislation from making it to the starting line in 2019. The tribal casinos in California have a good thing going, and they want to insure their place in the sports betting scene when it does eventually become a reality in California.
15. Do I need to be a California resident to play online?
There is nothing stopping anyone who is not a California resident from gambling online. While there are no regulations, it is simply not a crime in the state.
16. How old do I have to be to Bet in California?
Even though it is not illegal to bet on sports in California using offshore sportsbooks, there is still an age restriction. You must be 21-years of age to bet on sports.
17. Who is responsible for regulating Sports Betting in California?
The California State Legislature will be entrusted with writing the actual laws and amendments necessary to eventually legalize sports betting in the state. When legislation is passed, as most feel confident it will be, the California Gambling Control Commission will be responsible for regulating sportsbook operations in the state.
Why is There No Legal Sports Betting in California?
California is by far the largest state in the country (2019 census estimates nearly 40 million people). Texas has nearly 10 million fewer residents. Therefore, any form of legal sports betting (mobile or retail) would immediately become one of the largest industries in the country. Potentially billions of dollars in sports betting handle is going uncollected in the state, but why? The answer to that question is actually pretty simple. Tribal casinos.
Tribal casinos in California have power unlike any other in the United States. Their pull in the state’s legislature is unmatched by any. As soon as something becomes of a topic that the tribes are against, it almost immediately gets shut down. Legal sports betting is no different. A couple of sports betting bills have popped up in the state legislature over the past year or so. They all have one thing in common. The tribes shut them down almost instantly.
California tribes are against any form of gambling expansion, especially one that could divert money from their tribes via gamblers to other gambling facilities in the country. The tribes appear content with the gambling situation in California, for the most part (tribes believe that the state’s cardrooms are operating illegally). However, they would be open to the idea of legal sports betting, under one condition. Tribes have said they would be open to the idea of legal sports betting in California is they were to be given the exclusive rights. So now the state of California has to decide whether or not to offer up legal sports betting to the state’s tribes or continue on without legal sports betting in the state at all. Regardless of their decision, there will be plenty of unhappy parties involved.
California Sports Betting Law
Sports betting is banned in California under California Penal Code Part 1, Title 9, Chapter 10. The law states, “Except as provided in Section 336.9, every person who engages in one of the following offenses, shall be punished for a first offense by imprisonment in a county jail for a period of not more than one year or in the state prison, or by a fine not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both imprisonment and fine.” Those offenses include pool selling and bookmaking, among other things.
What Legal Sports Betting Could Look Like in CA
There hasn’t been much action that would suggest that legal sports betting is coming to California any time soon. However, we can make some assumptions on what exactly sports betting would look like in California if/when it ever does become legal in the state.
If sports betting is ever legalized in California, mobile sports betting will be a must. If the state wants to maximize its potential and become one of the largest (if not the largest) sports betting industries in the country, state-wide mobile will be needed. Once sports betting does become legal, mobile or not, we can be sure that sportsbook giants like FanDuel and DraftKings will be among the first to gain entry into California. Whichever way sports betting does become legal, whether or not it is tribal only, or cardrooms and racetracks are eligible to operate, the race to secure a partnership with one of the giant operators will be crucial. Securing a partnership with FanDuel, DraftKings or any other major player will give that casino/cardroom/racetrack a big leg up on the competition. It will also be interesting to see how many “skins” each gambling facility will be able to operate.
Becoming the first sportsbook to launch online will be a big victory for one lucky operator. Assuming that mobile does not become legal, launching the first retail sportsbook will be just as critical. The first sportsbook to launch in the Los Angeles area will see tons of sports betting traffic overnight. Any casinos that open a sportsbook in the southern part of California will see immediate success.
Heading into the 2020 calendar year it appears sports betting is still years away from coming to California, if at all. The tribes have no reason to budge on their stance of sports betting exclusivity. For now, California sports bettors will continue to place their bets illegally or have to travel to boarding Nevada (and now Oregon) to place any legal sports bet.