California Casinos commissioned a survey among current and potential California sports bettors about sports betting in California in August 2022. In that survey, 62% of respondents said they currently bet on sports online.
At a glance, it looks like California sports betting enthusiasts are rushing toward offshore sites en mass. However, a closer look at the open-ended responses also reveals confusion about what constitutes sports betting — and in some cases what constitutes gambling.
Sports Betting in California: Offshore Sites, VPNs, DFS
The final question of the California Casinos survey was open-ended: “List the sportsbook apps you currently use.”
This is a broad enough question that names like DraftKings and FanDuel were provided. They’re sportsbook apps, but they’ve offered daily fantasy sports far longer than they’ve offered sports betting, and they only offer DFS in California. Other answers are more surprising. Caesars Sportsbook is only a sports betting platform, and there isn’t yet a Caesars Sportsbook California. However, it is also a popular casino brand with rewards programs that remain on bettors’ phones when they leave Las Vegas.
While some California sports bettors may be using VPNs to get around geolocation restrictions — and sportsbooks seem to be improving their defenses against this practice — many bettors are probably going offshore.
Some respondents listed prominent offshore sportsbook brands among their current sportsbook apps. For instance, popular offshore sites Bovada, Stake.com, Betcha (now Vivid Picks), BetOnline, MyBookie, 1xBet, BetUS, FortuneJack, and Sportybet were listed by 10.4% of the respondents who answered the open-ended question. And others were listed, as well. That confirms that at least some California sports betting money is flowing offshore instead of being taxed in-state.
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Offshore sportsbooks often have higher betting limits than legal US sportsbooks. So, sports betting funds flowing offshore could be substantial even if it only comes from a minority of bettors.
The answers so far reveal how big brands have name recognition in markets where they may not be able to operate. Advertising on national sports broadcasts has made that consequence inevitable. However, there’s a final category of answers that reveals fundamental misunderstandings about sports betting: answers that have nothing to do with sportsbooks or sports betting.
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The Confused Answers
Some of the confused responses to “List the sportsbook apps you currently use” include:
- Liked very much
- Amazon Sportsbook
- Bingo and cards
California Casinos did allow California residents who did not currently bet on sports but were interested in betting on sports to take the survey. However, these responses show that some of the respondents weren’t clear about which sports services counted as sports betting. The survey had 600 responses, with all respondents being 21 or older.
This illustrates the challenge for both the Prop 26 and Prop 27 campaigns. The California Casinos survey found that 90% of respondents believe that most other sports fans find sports betting somewhat or very important. In 2018, the American Gaming Association found that there’s more variety among sports fans in how much they want sports betting.
That’s why Prop 26 and Prop 27 ads aren’t about sports betting. They’re about issues like solving homelessness and tribal sovereignty. The sports betting ad campaigns know that they need to appeal to more than sports fans.
California voters aren’t just sports bettors or sports fans. They’re regular people who think that Amazon has a sportsbook (it doesn’t), bingo and cards are in the same category of gambling as sports betting (they aren’t), and Google is a sportsbook (can you imagine?).
Not All Sports Bettors Are Equally Informed
There are plenty of die-hard sports fans who are also well-informed sports bettors. However, there are still many sports fans who don’t put money on their most anticipated games. Many still don’t understand how sports betting works.
While sports bettors may have clear opinions about Prop 26 and Prop 27, many California voters may not. It’ll be something for sports bettors who think the right way to vote on sports betting in California is obvious to keep in mind in November.
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