More and more states are legalizing sports betting, and the pace just keeps getting faster. But one state is lagging significantly behind the national trend: California.
Legally speaking, California is not a particularly gambling-friendly state. This trend continues today, as multiple pushes for sports betting legalization have stalled due to political infighting between tribal casinos and other political blocs.
Below, we’ll break down everything you need to know about California sports betting and whether you can expect the situation to change in the near future.
Latest In California Sports Betting
The story of California sports betting and attempts for legalization is mired in political drama.
In brief, California gambling activities are largely in the hands of tribal casinos. California card rooms, which operate on state soil, are allowed to offer certain types of card-based gambling activities. However, there’s no denying that tribal casinos have almost a complete monopoly on gambling within the state.
This has led to attempts by groups or individuals outside the tribal casino leadership to legalize sports betting. But they’ve hit several roadblocks.
Previous Sports Betting Legalization Attempts
Twice previously, sports betting proposals in 2016 and 2017 (an assembly bill and a constitutional amendment) were shot down by the California legislature. Similarly, a group called Californians for Sports Betting attempted to push ballot initiatives through that would repeal certain constitutional language from earlier in the millennium.
These attempts were meant to allow other operators to offer sports betting, which would dissolve any tribal casino monopoly. However, because tribal casinos have significant political power in California, all of these attempts at sports betting legalization were stifled just as they were gaining steam in 2018.
More recently, the Democratic Assemblyman Adam Gray introduced ACA 16: a constitutional amendment that would give the California legislature the power to regulate and authorize any sports betting activities in the state instead of tribal casino political blocs.
However, passing an amendment is difficult as it requires passage in both the Senate and the Assembly by a margin of two thirds. Then, it has to be signed by the governor (currently Gavin Newsom). Even after that, the amendment still has to be voted on by the public, where it needs to win by a simple majority.
Meanwhile, State Senator Bill Dodd filed a similar measure for passage by the Senate that did not reach the critical mass necessary to move further down the political process. It met significant resistance from tribal lobbyists and other groups in the state legislature.
Tribal Sports Betting Legalization Attempt
In response, California tribes filed a sports betting initiative of their own creation on November 13, 2019. This eventually came to be called the California Sports Wagering and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act.
In a nutshell, it would give tribal gaming casinos and licensed racetracks the ability to offer sports wagering instead of opening up the opportunity to other groups and operators. Furthermore, it would allow wagers on professional, college, and amateur sports, although no California college teams would be included with the sports betting markets. Even worse, mobile and online gambling provisions are markedly absent from the proposed Act.
This Act may have much better chances than either of the above other sports betting pushes. In order to be put on the 2020 ballot, the Act needed approximately 100,000 verified signatures by June 25. The tribes did not reach this goal, but they successfully lobbied for an extension, arguing that coronavirus-related social distancing measures were responsible for the lack of signature collection.
Now the deadline for the 2020 ballot is October 12. It’s still unlikely that the tribes will be able to collect enough signatures given this short extension. However, the tribes could easily file the same Act with slightly modified language and attempt to have it placed on the 2022 ballot.
At the time of this writing, this Act is the most straightforward chance Californians have to enjoy sports betting in any way.
Best Options For Sports Wagering In California
Given the fact that legal sports betting in California is at least several years away, sports wagering enthusiasts will need to turn to other options. Aside from visiting other states that have already legalized in-person and online sports betting, daily fantasy sports represent an opportunity to scratch the same kind of itch.
Why is daily fantasy sports legal but sports betting is not? In California, daily fantasy sports occupy a great legal area where the activity is neither explicitly legal nor illegal since it’s not fairly or thoroughly defined in any state legislation.
As a result, big operators like DraftKings and FanDuel do offer daily fantasy sports at this time even though the California legislature could theoretically make DFS illegal later.
Daily fantasy sports is technically classified as a game of skill instead of chance, so it skirts under the radar of most Californian anti-gambling legislation. Here’s a quick look at some of the best DFS operators Californians can enjoy.
DraftKings is huge in the DFS scene, and it offers a generous welcome bonus of $20 in site credit when you create a new account and deposit five dollars. You can also benefit from a deposit match of up to $500.
Special promotions appear on the platform frequently, and most of these are based on the current sports season. A robust rewards program is also in place for frequent players. Most impressive is the wide range of DFS markets available, ranging from staple professional sports, like football, all the way to niche markets, like esports’ League of Legends.
FanDuel is another extremely popular DFS mobile app and desktop platform. The first opening bonus includes $5 for free play. The second is another $5 on first deposit. This is enough entice someone to make an account, even just to check things out over the short term.
Special beginner contests and a simplistic loyalty program make FanDuel’s DFS platform well worth your while. Frequent players will be able to redeem points for entry into contests and special prizes. Innovative features like the ability to edit your lineups after you enter DFS contests means that it’s a perfect DFS platform for finicky or indecisive players.
Other DFS Sites
Alongside the above two daily fantasy sports giants, there are new “prop fantasy sports” sites that have recently come onto the scene.
Monkey Knife Fight
Monkey Knife Fight only launched in 2018 and it’s now the third biggest DFS platform in North America. It makes enjoying DFS incredibly easy for new players. The 100% deposit match bonus worth up to $50 is a great attraction.
Creating a Monkey Knife Fight account is quick and easy, and you only need to be 18 to start playing. Monkey Knife Fight also differs from other DFS operators in that it focuses on letting you place bets on set amounts of money instead of picking players that will achieve specific results.
For instance, Monkey Knife Fight might offer you the following wager: will Player A score above or below 12 points? You, the player, choose over or under and wins based on the result. This makes DFS quick and easy for newcomers and the mechanics are incredibly intuitive. You can make deposits with credit and debit cards, plus make withdrawals the same way or via PayPal.
The other new DFS platform is called PrizePicks. Like Monkey Knife Fight, PrizePicks has you focus more on predictions with individual athletes instead of looking at team statistics.
They offer a deposit bonus of $25 right off the bat, plus a deposit match bonus of up to $1000. This is quite impressive since most DFS operators don’t go this high with their opening bonuses.
Ultimately, both fast-paced DFS sites are good choices if you’re in the mood for something new and innovative.
California Sports Betting Apps & Sites
If California was to legalize sports betting we would expect the following sportsbooks to launch.
- Draftkings Sportsbook
- FanDuel Sportsbook
- Caesars Sportsbook
- BetMGM Sportsbook
- BetRivers Sportsbook
How Big The California Sports Betting Market Would Be
If, and when, California finally legalizes sports betting, it’ll be walking into among the most profitable markets in the country.
In short, California has the most professional sports teams. It also has the largest population out of any other state in the country. As a result, one would expect it to also enjoy higher sports betting engagement.
Chris Grove, of research firm Eilers and Krejcik Gaming, estimates that the sports betting market could be worth $2.5+ billion per year in California. This is high in comparison to other sports betting profits from states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
As a result, this represents a significant potential tax revenue increase for the state government. Given these potential riches, it’s unlikely that sports betting will remain illegal forever.
California Sports Betting FAQ
The soonest that sports betting will realistically launch in California is 2022. Even though the aforementioned tribal sports betting act could be approved in 2020, this is highly unlikely.
This depends on the terms of the legal agreements. But more than likely, sports bettors will need to be 21 years of age or older.
Any California sports betting will likely be regulated by the California Gambling Control Commission.
As the bill currently stands the Tribal casinos will limit sports betting to tribal casinos and racetracks.
Yes, there will likely be no online sports betting option as the tribes have historically been against online gambling of any form so there will only be in-person betting.