California Sports Betting 2021

If it legalized sports betting, California would be one of the largest sports betting markets in the United States. It’s the most populous state in the country. So, sportsbook operators are hoping that California will legalize sports betting. However, sports betting has become a contentious issue because of conflicts between state and tribal officials. However, three new initiatives could get on California’s 2022 ballot to bring sports betting in-state. They offer different versions of California sports betting. 

While Californians debate those initiatives, bettors can play daily fantasy sports (DFS) to scratch their sports betting itches. Several major sportsbook operators are already predicted to launch in California if they’re allowed to. Everyone wants an early piece of California’s sports betting market, so they’re lining up early. Here’s what bettors need to know about California sports betting. 

California Sports Betting Updates And Legalization 

California’s three sports betting initiatives offer different versions of sports betting that could transform bettors’ experiences. Here’s a summary of those three sports betting initiatives:

 On Ballot?Online?Who Can Offer Sportsbooks?Tax RatesServices Funded
Initiative From 18 Native American TribesYesNoTribal Casinos
Horse Tracks
10% on profits from horse track’ sportsbooksDepartment of Mental Health
Bureau for Gambling Control
General Fund
Initiative From Three California CitiesNoYesTribal Casinos
Horse Tracks
Card Rooms
Professional Sports Teams
15% on sportsbook profitsCalifornia Sports Wagering Fund
Initiative From Seven Online Betting Platform ProvidersNoYesTribal Casinos
Sportsbook Operators Partnered with Tribes
10% on online sportsbook profitsCalifornia Online Sports Betting Trust Fund

Their tax rates are similar, and so are the programs they fund. Homelessness, mental health, and related issues are largely covered. But who’s allowed to offer sports betting, who’s advocating for online sports betting, and who’s on the ballot are all important differences for bettors. 

Initiative From California’s 18 Native American Tribes 

The tribal initiative is the only one of California’s three initiatives that are on the November 2022 ballot so far. It’s also the only one that would not allow online sports betting in California. That makes sense from a tribal casinos operator’s perspective. Retail sportsbooks draw bettors into casinos and boost business for surrounding slots, tables, and restaurants. So, a retail-only sports betting environment would benefit tribal casinos the most. 

Allowing sports betting at horse tracks also gives the state government a reason to be interested. Horse tracks are off-reservation, so they can be taxed by the state. Currently, this is the version of sports betting most likely to pass in California. 

Initiative From Three California Cities 

Three California city officials filed an initiative that complements the tribal initiative:

  • Helen Fisicaro – Vice Mayor of Colma
  • Raul Peralez – Councilmember of San Jose, District 3
  • Tasha Cerda – Mayor of Gardena

Their initiative would legalize retail and online sports betting at multiple outlets. It was also cities’ responses to the tribal sports betting initiative. This would allow California cities to use gaming funds for local projects. It’d be an easy way to boost local revenues, so it’s no wonder that cities prefer this approach.  

This initiative got its ballot language on October 18, 2021. Now, this initiative has until April 18, 2022 to gather just under one million signatures to get on the ballot. If it gets enough signatures, it’ll appear on the ballot alongside the tribal initiative. If it passed that vote, Californians could have online sportsbooks in early 2023.      

Initiative From Seven Online Betting Platform Operators 

Major sportsbook operators, like DraftKings, FanDuel, and WynnBET, are teaming up to get their own sports betting initiative onto California’s 2022 ballot. They’re pitching it as a solution to California homelessness. However, it would also allow retail sports betting at tribal casinos and allow partnered operators to offer online sports betting on their behalf. Although it’s not designed as a compromise, it’s more deferential to Native American tribes than the City Initiative is. This initiative is still in its infancy. So, we’ll track developments as the campaign behind it heats up. 

Best Alternatives To Sports Betting In California   

Since sports betting is still illegal in California, bettors have to travel outside the state to wager. However, DFS is a good alternative for players who want to compete bet but can’t place bets. Lucky for Californians, two major DFS operators already call California home: DraftKings and FanDuel. 

DraftKings

DraftKings is one of two major DFS companies in the United States. It allows users to build fictional teams and earn points based on how each player on those teams perform. As real athletes perform well, players earn more points. Players can play for free or pay entrance fees to enter real-money contests. It’s the closest Californians can get to sports betting without access to sportsbooks.    

FanDuel

FanDuel is the other major DFS company in the United States. There are others, but there’s little reason to go beyond DraftKings and FanDuel. Together, they command 90% of the DFS market. FanDuel is the original DFS company, and it’s held its own against DraftKings and adapted to the rise of igaming. It’s one of the best DFS options for sports bettors who want something to hold them over until 2023. 

Predicted California Sports Betting Apps And Sites 

There’s no list of sports betting license applicants yet. However, the seven sportsbook and igaming operators that’ve submitted their own initiative are the most likely market entrants: 

  • Bally’s Sportsbook
  • BetMGM
  • DraftKings
  • FanDuel 
  • Fanatics 
  • Barstool Sportsbook 
  • WynnBET

Fanatics is the only company that’s signed onto the California initiative that’s not a sportsbook. However, it has been in talks with Rush Street Interactive and Betsson to acquire a sportsbook. If one of those deals goes through, then BetRivers or Betsson could enter a legal California sports betting market, too.

California’s Projected Sports Betting Market Size 

As the most populous state, California could become one of the largest sports betting markets in the United States. With online sports betting, it could grow as high as $3 billion per year. Even if the tribal initiative passed, California sports betting could still generate $1 billion annually. It’s a staggering amount of money that sportsbooks want to command large slices of. This projected market size is the reason sportsbooks have banded together to start a campaign to legalize online sports betting in California. The campaign is in its infancy. But we’ll provide updates as they begin making waves.   

California Sports Betting FAQs

What Happens If Multiple Initiatives Qualify For The 2022 Ballot?

If multiple initiatives qualify to be on the 2022 ballot, one of two things will likely happen. California’s legislature could hold a special session to find a compromise among initiatives to place on the ballot. Or Californians will vote on multiple sports betting initiatives simultaneously.

When Could Sports Betting Launch In California? 

Mid-2023. If sports betting passed a vote in November 2022, California would still need to write industry rules and award licenses. Given California’s strict regulations, it’s unlikely to be able to move fast enough to offer sports betting in early 2023. After a successful sports betting vote, California’s Gambling Control Commission could launch sports betting in mid to late-2023.

How Old Will I Have To Be To Use California Sportsbooks?

21. California requires casino gamblers to be at least 21. It’ll treat sports betting similarly, because retail sportsbooks would be in areas where legal bettors would have to be at least 21. 21 is the most common sports betting age in the United States, and California hasn’t offered any reasons it would deviate from that convention.  

Who Will Regulate California Sports Betting?

California’s Gambling Control Commission will regulate legal sports betting. It oversees all commercial gambling in California, including horse tracks and card rooms. Sports betting will naturally fold into the Gambling Control Commission’s regulatory responsibilities.

Will Online Sports Betting Be Available In California?

It depends on which initiative makes it onto the ballot and passes the 2022 vote. If the tribal initiative passes, then sports betting will be a retail-only operation. However, if one of the other two initiatives passes the 2022 vote, bettors could have online sportsbooks available state-wide.

Will Bettors Have To Register For Sportsbook Accounts At Tribal Casinos?

If retail sportsbooks at tribal casinos are the only legal sportsbooks, then bettors will have to register at tribal casinos. However, if online sportsbooks are available, then bettors will be able to register for sportsbook accounts from anywhere in California. 

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