Can you sports bet in California?

Sports betting is currently illegal in California, but voters will decide whether to allow sports betting or not in the 2022 November ballot.

Sports betting is currently illegal in California. This means that no one is allowed to legally place a sports betting wager in the state, nor are there any legal or licensed sportsbooks operating in California. This would only change if the Constitution got amended.

According to reports, there has been a push to legalise activities that would help the state generate money, and one of these is sports betting. In 2020, California residents had hope that a petition would receive enough support to put a sports betting referendum on a state ballot, but this did not happen. The call for lawmakers to amend sports betting had also previously failed in 2019.

The California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) is not showing any interest in opening conversation about sports gambling. It is believed that commercial facilities, such as casino operators with established reputations, may have the best chance of bringing a sportsbook facility in the state. These include Santa Anita Park, Harrah’s Resort in Southern California, Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino, San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino, as well as Pechanga Resort and Casino.

Sports betting

Sports betting is the activity of predicting sports results and placing wagers on the outcome. Sports bettors either place their bets legally through a sportsbook, or illegally through privately run enterprises. The term ‘book’ refers to the books used by wage brokers to track wagers, payouts and debts.

Many legal sportsbooks are found online, depending on the state, and they take bets from the bettor before a bet is placed. On the other hand, illegal books operate anywhere, they only require money from losing bettors and do not require the wager amount upfront.

Attempts at legalising sports betting

There have been numerous attempts at legalising daily fantasy sports (DFS), which is described as accelerated versions of traditional fantasy sports that are conducted over short-term periods, such as a week or single day of competition, as opposed to those that are played across an entire season. The California Assembly passed a legalisation bill in 2016, and it seemed like it would pass because of the support from an overwhelming majority. However, the Senate took no action on the bill because it did not receive any votes. A cited factor in the derailment of the bill was tribal opposition, which stopped any progress towards passing it.

Furthermore, efforts were made to legalise online poker in 2016 and 2017. The bills proposed to allow card rooms and licensed tribal casinos to offer online poker. If the bills had passed, the state’s horse tracks would have received an injection of approximately $57 million in the California Horse Racing Poker Account. The proposed bills wanted to legalise playing poker online in a licensed medium, and they both provided a framework for poker operators to become registered.

Moreover, some of the reasons cited for the bills not passing is that they required an appropriateness determination in which the proposed operators were judged based partially on their past actions. This possibly discredited PokeStars, which is an online poker card room, because in 2006, it continued to offer online poker despite the Federal Statute that made online poker illegal. PokeStar’s reputation has rendered it a “bad actor.”

On the other hand, tribal casinos have also opposed online poker legislation. According to reports, this is because the tribal casinos want to use the legislation to restrict the games that California’s card rooms are allowed to offer. These card rooms have attempted to offer blackjack and pai gow poker, and the tribal casino views these as competition.

Lastly, the prohibition on betting also extends to online lottery and online table games.

Effects of the ban

Most California residents opt to drive to Las Vegas to bet on sports. However, the real issue is that the ban on sports betting has led many to use illegal avenues to bet on sports. This takes potential revenue from the state, and it also presents a moral question for both the lawmakers and residents. The effect that a sports bet ban has on treasury is also intensified by population numbers in California. The state has a high population, and it has more professional teams than any state in the United States (US). Many people argue that California will not be able to ignore the financial wins of sports betting any longer.

Proposed legislation

All attempts at legalising sportsbooks in California have previously failed. After a 2018 Supreme Court of Appeal ruling lifted the federal ban on gambling and allowed sports betting to be legal in the US, there was a bill in California for a referendum that would permit sports betting, but it failed to accumulate the two thirds support necessary to place the issue in the 2018 ballot.

It is reported that tribal casinos continue to oppose anything that they believe would infringe on their exclusivity of offering casino games in the state. Sports betting would infringe on the monopoly that is enjoyed by tribal casinos.

However, there is hope for Californians because on Thursday, 27 May 2021, it was announced that Californians would be able to legally bet on the Lakers, Dodgers and the Rams games at tribal casinos and horse-racing tracks. This would be through an initiative that qualified for the November 2022 ballot. According to Mark Macarro, the Tribal Chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, the step is important towards giving Californians the opportunity to participate in sports betting, while also establishing safeguards and protections against underage gambling.

Lastly, sports clubs that have been left out of the proposed sports betting legislations are expected to spend huge amounts of money to oppose the new ballot measure, which they have referred to as an attempt to monopolise the gaming and sports industry. The opposition committee is named ‘No on the Gambling Power Grab’, and it reportedly raised approximately $1 million in cash contributions in 2020.