California online sports betting laws
There are nearly 40 million people in California and at the moment none of them can legally enjoy sports betting. Efforts to legalize it in the most populous state in the US are ongoing, including a ballot initiative that will be put before voters in November 2022, but, even if this passes, it will likely be 2023 before a California sports betting gold rush gets under way.
Administrative law and government relations attorney
Jennifer has a degree in Journalism from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, and graduated from George Washington University Law School, Washington, D.C, in 2005. She's been living in Las Vegas helping clients in the casino and gaming industry, as well as other regulated businesses, across Nevada for over 15 years.
She has authored and co-authored numerous articles and books on US gaming law, including most recently, The Law of Regulated Gambling: A Practical Guide for Business Lawyers, American Bar Association (2020), and That (Expletive) Broad: Women Who Broke Barriers in the Casino and Gaming Industry (2020).
Is sports betting legal in California?
California sports betting is not legal. Moves for legalization are under way, although it will likely be 2023 before the first sports bets can be cast in the Golden State.
Is online sports betting legal in California?
No. California online sports betting is not legal, and there is little prospect of that changing any time soon.
The size of the potential California sports betting market is staggering. Sportsbooks operating here would see revenue in the billions.
California has everything the sports betting industry could want. The population is pushing 40 million, and the state is home to no fewer than 15 big four sports teams. However, progress towards the legalization of California sports betting in the wake of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) being overturned in 2018 has been incredibly slow.
This is explained by the infamous complexity of the state’s politics, but also by the ongoing dispute between the owners of the state’s casinos and the people who run card rooms here.
There are more than 60 casinos in California, all owned and run by Native American tribes. They have long felt that card rooms in the state are operating outside the law.
A coalition backed by the tribes has succeeded in collecting sufficient signatures to put a referendum that would authorize sports betting on the ballot in November 2022.
Despite the state’s massive budget deficit, which is running at more than $50 billion, and the huge potential for sports betting to fill this hole with estimated revenues of $700 million or more each year, California has been slow to move to legalize sports betting.
There have been several attempts to legalize California sports betting, but all have foundered on the rocks of the state’s politics and a row between the casinos and other gaming providers.
PASPA was overthrown in mid-2018, but it was not until early 2020 that the first meeting to examine what a legal sports betting industry might look like was held.
A draft bill that might have gone to a public vote in November 2021 was drawn up. It envisaged the tribal casinos being allowed to run sportsbooks but in return the card rooms would be free from the constant lawsuits being launched by the tribes. Time ran out and there was no vote on the proposal.
A coalition backed by the tribes, however, has succeeded in getting a referendum on the ballot in the November 2022 election. If passed, the initiative would amend the state constitution and state statutes to legalize sports betting at state tribal casinos and licensed racetracks in California. The measure would tax profits derived from sports betting at racetracks at 10% and legalize roulette and dice games, such as craps, at tribal casinos.
Moreover, there are also moves by major national sportsbook operators to join forces with California’s professional sports teams to support an additional sports betting ballot referendum which would allow mobile sports betting as well as in-person wagering at certain sports facilities.
The only sport on which you can bet online in California today is horse racing. The Golden State has some of the most famous tracks in the country, including Santa Anita and Del Mar, and wagering is permitted at the track or online at licensed advance-deposit websites.
California is one of the states where Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) operates in a gray area. There have been attempts since 2015 to specifically legalize and regulate DFS here, but none have reached fruition. In the meantime, the state’s Attorneys General are yet to issue an opinion regarding whether DFS is illegal gambling under the laws of California, and no legal action has been taken by the state regarding DFS operators.
As a result, all the major DFS operators offer games to a huge and appreciative audience. California is estimated to have about 120,000 active players, generating more than $200 million a year in entry fees, and some $20m in revenue for the firms in question.
With a host of NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL teams in the state, plus a thriving college sports scene, there is never any shortage of games to play on.
NFL is huge in California, with three teams located in the state: the San Francisco 49ers, the LA Rams, and the LA Chargers. With so many top-level college football teams also based here, there will never be a lack of action for sports fans to bet on if wagering is ever legalized.
Given the size of the population in California, and the number of casinos here, it is no surprise to find numerous agencies offering ways in which gambling can take place as responsibly as possible.
If and when California sports betting is legalized, it is clear there will be several places where anybody who encounters gambling problems can seek help:
State of California: The attorney general’s office provides insight into the various programs and self-help resources available in the state.
California Department of Public Health: The office of problem gambling has direct links to text, phone and online chat access to counselors, as well as a range of other resources.
California Council on Problem Gambling: Offers a huge array of assistance including numerous resources to educate people, and those close to them, who develop issues.
Problemgambling.ca: Delivers a range of self-help tools for anyone concerned about problem gambling.
California State Lottery: Shows it takes the issue of problem gambling seriously with a code of conduct, employee training and a guide to its responsible play initiatives.
Casinos: Venues such as the San Manuel Casino offer customers a link to resources and raise awareness of the problems that gambling can cause.
National Council on Problem Gambling: The national organization with a local touch, as it collates links to resources as well as offering a 24-hour helpline.
Bill A 1441, which would legalize sports betting, is unsuccessful.
Bill ACA 18, which would set up a referendum to legalize sports betting, is launched unsuccessfully.
PASPA is struck down by the court. Further efforts towards legalization are in vain.
Legislators draw up another legalization bill. However, the tribes launch a separate initiative to legalize California sports betting at casinos only.
More possible legislation, more threats of lawsuits, all under the shadow of Covid-19 – progress is, not surprisingly, limited. No sports betting bill appears on the November ballot.
A coalition backed by the state’s tribes successfully collects enough signatures to put a referendum that would amend the state’s constitution to allow sports betting on the November 2022 ballot.
As things stand, there is nowhere you can enjoy California sports betting. If the 2022 ballot initiative is successful, it would allow for a launch at some point in 2023.
The referendum would allow only for in-person sports betting at California’s 69 tribal casinos and four horse racing tracks. At present there are more than 60 casinos across California, all run by Native American tribes. The most up to date list can be found here.
It’s noteworthy that there are rumblings that major national sportsbook operators may join forces with California’s professional sports teams to support an additional sports betting ballot referendum to allow for mobile sports betting as well as in-person wagering at certain sports facilities. All eyes of the industry will continue to be on California to watch for developments in this space.
California online sports betting does not exist yet. The only sport on which you can bet online is horse racing. California has some of the most famous tracks in the country, including Santa Anita, and online wagering with licensed advance deposit wagering providers is permitted. That aside, there is no sports betting allowed in the Golden State.
No. There are no such things as California betting sites. The process towards the legalization of wagering is moving slowly, but if it occurs, it is hoped that California online betting will follow shortly afterwards. The only sport on which you can gamble legally online in California is horse racing.
There is currently nowhere to place sports bets in California, either on retail premises such as casinos, or online at California betting sites. The only exception to this is horse racing, which you can bet on at the track or on licensed advance-deposit websites.
Until California online betting is legalized, there are no betting apps licensed to do business in the state. There may be unlicensed offshore sites offering services to people in the US, but using these sites carries a high risk. If you have any dispute with such an operator, you will have no legal recourse.