California Sports Betting: Is Sports Betting Legal in CA?

California

Everything We Know about California Sports Betting

California has attempted to legalize online gambling in the state multiple times. California has legalized daily fantasy sports, however, DFS has the distinction of not being classified as online betting. Despite some progress on the issue, the attempts to legalize online sports betting hasn’t become reality. Given the state’s notoriously difficult politics, it is unclear when expanded gaming, that will include online gaming, will occur. Since state residents are free to play with offshore casinos, the state is losing large amounts of revenue due to internecine warfare.

The US Supreme Court overturned the federal ban on statewide sports betting last May. The landmark court decision flung open the door for each individual state to make its own decision. Eastern states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware jumped at the opportunity.

More states are jumping on the wagon loaded with much-needed revenue generated by sports gambling. One of the most alluring states still working out the legislative details is California. Here’s what you need to know about the progress of sportsbooks in The Golden State.

Where We Are Currently on California Sportsbooks

Many thought California would be a foregone conclusion to legislate law that made sports betting legal. Anyone living in the state appreciates the financial struggles of state agencies. They’re frequent news for Californians.

So too is the push to legalize all types of things to help the state generate revenue. There was a great deal of hope that a petition would receive enough support to put a sports betting referendum on a statewide ballot by 2020.

Early this year, both the petition idea and a call for lawmakers to propose legislation, each failed. Right now, there is a great deal of conversation surrounding California sports betting, but there appears to be nothing on the immediate horizon.

Still, with their proximity to the original betting capital of the world, Las Vegas, and a clear sense of the enormous amount of revenue sports betting will produce, Californians remain hopeful.

Until then, picking the most viable physical sportsbook locations and online providers is conjecture. However, we will do our best to give you a look inside which of these options has the best chance if and when California passes sports betting legislation.

California Sports Betting FAQ

Q: Is Online Sports Betting Legal in California?
A: No

Q: Is Daily Fantasy Sports Legal in California?
A: No, but CA doesn’t prevent users from entering the contests and playing. All major DFS operators are live in CA.

Q: Can you bet on Horse Racing in California?
A: Yes, at multiple race tracks

Tribal Tribulations in the Golden State

Native Lights casino

Credit: https://tonkawacasinos.com/native-lights-casino/

One problem that California sportsbook hopefuls are facing is the resistance put up by the tribal casino facilities in the Golden State. None in California much interest at all in racing to the lead to secure sportsbook approval.

Even fewer showed any sense they would be eager to share the benefits with commercial entities when sports betting becomes legal in the state. There is an ongoing war of words between the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) and independent card rooms.

The CNIGA has no interest in agitating that debate by opening up the window for sports gambling. Working against the CNIGA is a federal ruling from 2016. This threw out all revenue sharing agreements between the tribal casinos and the state.
Consequently, the amount of the monetary contribution to the California General Fund plummeted from $330 million to a paltry $3.6 million. This could prove to be a highly debated subject when lawmakers are forced to decide between loyalty to the once lucrative tribal casino industry and the healthy push by sportsbook operators.

Best Bets for Physical Sportsbooks in California

Most projections feel that lawmakers will eventually honor that commitment to the tribal casino operations in California. There is also an indication that it will only be initially to provide these established facilities with first-right-of-refusal.

After that, the door will be open to commercial facilities, casino operators with established reputations, to receive the red carpet to do business in California. Here are the physical entities with the best chance of landing a sportsbook facility in the state.

Santa Anita Park

If you understand anything about the Los Angeles area in relation to professional sports, Santa Anita Park is an obvious choice for a physical sportsbook. It’s both famous and fancy. Over the last decade, Santa Anita has hosted the Breeders’ Cup leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown five times.

Address: 285 Huntington Dr, Arcadia, CA 91007

Harrah’s Resort Southern California

Harrah’s is one of the most recognized names in casino resort facilities across the US. They have a massive operation about halfway between San Diego and Los Angeles. The reputation of Harrah’s will be a huge advantage, but this is also another of the tribal casino operations that have yet to show much enthusiasm for California sports betting. Look for that enthusiasm to change when sportsbooks become legal.

Address: 777 S Resort Dr, Valley Center, CA 92082

Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino

Location may prove important, and halfway between LA and the California state capitol will be a huge bonus for the Tachi. It is also located on a fictional triangle with Las Vegas, so anyone who was compelled to drive to Vegas to bet on sports, would find this location right on the way. It’s a massive hotel operation, with one of the largest gaming floors in the US. This would be a prime spot for a sportsbook.

Address: 17225 Jersey Ave, Lemoore, CA 93245

San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino

One thing that pushes the probability down slightly for the San Manuel is that it’s a tribal casino. As we mentioned, the interest in climbing on the sports betting bandwagon has not been strong. However, if lawmakers legalize sports gambling, it’s a safe bet the fourth largest casino facility in the US will be highly considered as a sportsbook location.

Address: 777 San Manuel Blvd, Highland, CA 92346

Pechanga Resort & Casino

Just below Harrah’s in impressive size is the Pechanga. To give you a perspective of how large the Pechanga Resort and Casino is, it has nearly 4,000 slot machines alone. Three famous Las Vegas casinos, the MGM Grand, the Aria and Bellagio’s have barely over 2,000. With size and luxury in mind, the Pechanga has everything necessary to host a California sportsbook, including the money to finance a dedicated facility.

Address: 45000 Pechanga Pkwy, Temecula, CA 92592

Online Sportsbook Contenders for California

fanduel sportsbookThe first step to open sports betting to Californians will be to pass legislation regulating fixed locations. However, this open door will act as a clear path to online sportsbook operations. Too many people utilize mobile devices.
While online sportsbook legalization may take time, once sports betting laws are changed, it will follow soon after. Here are the top contenders to secure online sports betting approval in California.

DraftKings – DraftKings is currently operating an online sportsbook in New Jersey. However, with rival daily fantasy sports provider FanDuel, they are head and shoulders above the competition in collective sports betting revenue.

Ties to major casinos in New Jersey, plus links to sportsbook operations planned for other states make DraftKings a leading candidate to provide online sports betting in California as well. DraftKings also inked a deal with Caesars earlier in the year, further supporting their reputation.

FanDuel – When you lock up the lead in sports bet revenue three out of four months to begin the year, you cement yourself as one of the leading online sportsbooks. This may come as a surprise to anyone who is not associated with FanDuel.

They were ready to be a huge factor in New Jersey. Like DraftKings, they will be a strong competitor for online sportsbooks in all states that legalize sports betting, including California.

playMGM Sportsbook app – With their largest single casino operation only a few miles away in Las Vegas, MGM will be both a viable contender for a physical location and an online operation.

Since they already have an affiliation with the California Gaming Commission, this will prove a valuable tool in their attempts to acquire the necessary state licenses when they become available.

William Hill – Another sportsbook app that could make some noise in California is William Hill. They currently operate sportsbook and online gaming options for more than a dozen physical Las Vegas casinos. The current involvement in the western US and proximity to California gives William Hill an edge to secure the necessary approval in California.

Attempts to Legalize Online Poker

Efforts were made in 2016 and 2017 to legalize online poker. This follows successive efforts going back a decade. The bills would have allowed card rooms and licensed tribal casinos to offer online poker. The state’s horse tracks would have received an infusion of up to $57 million in the California Horse Racing Internet Poker Account. The proposed bill both explicitly made it legal to play poker online in a licensed medium and provided the framework for poker operators to become registered.

The various bills have floundered due to the same factors manifesting themselves repeatedly. The bill requires a suitability determination in which the proposed operators must be judged based in part on past actions. This would likely disqualify PokerStars from the marketplace since it continued to offer online poker notwithstanding the 2006 federal statute that made online poker illegal. Its operation of online poker games after UIGEA would render it a “bad actor” under the proposed legislation, and its participation could be barred. PokerStars exerted efforts to lobby against the previous iterations of this legislation, and its opposition was one of the main reasons that the previous two bills failed. There was a version of the legalization bill that would have allowed PokerStars to pay a fine for previous actions and be allowed to participate in the online poker market. This bill, however, did not garner sufficient legislative support.

At the same time, the tribal casinos have opposed online poker legalization as well. Tribal casinos want to use the legislation as an impetus 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 which the tribal casinos view as competition. The tribal casinos, who currently dominate gaming in California, have much to lose if there is a version of the legislation that passes that either allows PokerStars into the market or does not cut back on the card rooms’ offerings. To date, these casinos have opposed all efforts to legalize online poker.

Other Attempts at Gaming Legalization

All types of gaming expansion have run into obstacles in California. There have been attempts to legalize daily fantasy sports in California. The California Assembly passed a legalization bill in 2016 by an overwhelming margin and passage seemed assured in the Senate. However, the Senate proved to be a much tougher proposition as no action was taken on the bill, which did not even receive a vote. One factor in the derailment of the bill was tribal opposition to its passage which stopped progress towards passage dead in its tracks. Although DFS has not yet been legalized in California, there has been no impediment to California residents entering the contests.

Sportsbooks have run into similar opposition and attempts to legalize thus far have failed. For sportsbooks, however, it is still early in the game after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Murphy. The ruling lifted the federal ban on gambling and essentially allowed sports betting to be legal in the US. There was a bill introduced to allow for a referendum that would allow sports betting, but the legislation failed to garner the two thirds support necessary to place the issue on the 2018 ballot. There are efforts underway to place this on the ballot for 2020, but tribal casinos have opposed anything that they believe would infringe on their exclusivity for offering casino games in the state. Any bill that would give the card rooms a role in sports betting will be vigorously opposed by the tribal casinos.

There are no online lottery or online table game offerings in CA. It begs the question, why not an online lottery? California is a state desperately in need of more tax dollars. We’ve seen the success of the Michigan Lottery online and the PA iLottery online. The online betting legalization efforts have been focused on online sports betting (infancy stage bills), poker and there have been no efforts to legalize other forms of online casinos. Given the strenuous opposition to poker and sports wagering, any sort of other online expansion of gambling is likely to be opposed by the tribal casinos.

One tribal casino attempted to undertake its own online gambling operations by offering online bingo while expressing an interest in online poker. After a multi-year legal battle, the Court of Appeals held that UIGEA prohibited the tribe’s online gaming offerings. It also held that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act did not pre-empt UIGEA.

How Can Californians Place Sports Bets Now?

Californians have a slight advantage over other state residents. It’s a fairly short drive to Las Vegas. Sure, anyone can fly to Vegas and bet on sports, but it’s just more convenient from California. In fact, it happens a lot.

Another heavily debated subject in California is the obvious fact that many Californians use illegal avenues to bet on sports. This not only takes most or all of any potential revenue away from the state, it presents a moral question for both lawmakers and residents.

The pipeline from Los Angeles to Las Vegas is a well-traveled route for sportsbook enthusiasts, often to avoid illegal consequences. Even though the petition and initial referendum failed, the potential for legal sports betting in California is good.

It’s just going to take a little longer than most of the oddsmakers projected. By the end of the year, close to half the states in the US could have legal sportsbooks. Don’t expect California to be left on the outside looking in for long.

Bottom Line on California Sports Betting

When you sit with more professional sports teams than any state in the country, you’re going to have millions of fans. Many of these avid sports enthusiasts would like to bet on their team. In California, they can hope a quick flight or take a drive to Las Vegas, but that does little or nothing for the state treasury.

Nearly every calculation from states who have legalized sports betting strongly considers population numbers. When you combine the most teams with the most people in the country, the estimated numbers for sports betting in California are staggering.

Early efforts have met with some resistance, and a lackadaisical approach caused a couple efforts to fizzle before they even got started. Look for those behind the efforts to gain access to legal sports betting in California to learn from their mistakes.

There is just too large a presence in professional sports and too vast a population of people for California to ignore the financial windfall sports betting will create. For the time being, Californians will have to be patient and what’s legal in Vegas will have to stay in Vegas.

What’s the Short-Term Outlook for Bills?

The current prospects for legalization in short order are not good. 2018 was the first year in many years that the online poker bill was not even introduced in the Assembly. The 2017 process was bitter and contentious and the bill’s proponents felt the need to let the issue rest for a year before trying again next year. Tribal interests will simply not allow these bills to proceed until the legislative process restricts the card rooms.

There is a chance that this issue will be addressed eventually. Over the 10 years that expanded gaming has been on the legislative agenda, numerous opponents have been brought into the tent by various compromises that advanced their interests. At some point, it is likely that there will be a compromise that can overcome tribal opposition. Otherwise, there could be a public groundswell of support for expanded gaming as other states legalize both online poker and sports betting. At some point, the benefits to both the state and its residents may overcome tribal opposition. Another possibility is that California can find a way to package online poker in the same legislation as sports betting in a manner that can ride a wave of public support.

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Sam Shefrin is the founder of Lineups.com, Inc. Before Lineups, he started Daily Fantasy Cafe, Inc. in 2014. Armed with a passion for sports and every Atlanta team, his journey continues with the goal of making Lineups a premier sports analytics destination. He has been quoted on Forbes.com for industry insight and his websites featured on NBATV, Yahoo! Sports, Fantasy Pros, Bleacher Report and SB Nation.