The most populous of the 50 states could get sports betting within the next couple of years. California has bills on the table and has had a lot of discussions, but nothing has gone to a public vote as of yet. The difficulty in getting a bill out for a vote could be viewed as something of a concern, given that a ballot measure for a November election could be a 50/50 proposition at best.
There are a ton of gaming establishments in California. Some of them are Native American casinos and others are primarily card rooms. There are two separate discussions. There is a statewide option that would incorporate mobile and online sports betting and an expansion of betting to the card rooms and potentially bars and restaurants if the lottery were to be involved. An all-inclusive bill would be the best course of action for California.
On the other side, the tribes that own the Native American casinos are looking to move forward on their own and they could beat the state senators and representatives to the punch.
Any bill would require passage by two-thirds of both the State Senate and the State General Assembly. The first step would actually be getting together a bill that has a good chance of making it through. The second step would be pushing that bill through at least six months before the general election. The third and final step would be voter approval.
Voters have passed three separate expansions of gaming. The state started up a lottery in 1984 after voters agreed to that legislation. Expansions of tribal gaming in 1998 and 2000 were the others. As mentioned, among the current bills that are being discussed is one with a focus on the tribal gaming establishments, which could be the one that gets pushed through. If it does, that would probably put the kibosh on mobile and online wagering and would effectively shut out any businesses not tied to tribal gaming. That one could end up on the November ballot.
Furthermore, the coronavirus outbreak of 2020 has sidetracked all state governments and has even shut some of them down, including California’s. With the discussions on the bill currently tabled, it sure looks like widespread betting in California is on hold as well.
If the tribes have their way, betting will be restricted to retail wagering only, at least in the interim. At that point, the tribes would have all of the leverage and power for any potential expansion of sports betting. We’ll have to see if that would shut out operators like DraftKings, William Hill, FanDuel, PointsBet, and BetRivers or if they would find a way to get into California and set up operations.
There are a lot of moving parts in California, as you would expect. That just always seems to be the case no matter what.
How Do I Bet on Sports in California?
Right now, you cannot bet on sports in California. As we know, thousands of Californians make a pilgrimage to Las Vegas on weekends to watch sports or go to clubs and parties or just go out there and have fun. Part of the gaming expansion for the tribal casinos includes dice games and roulette, so California natives have to go to Nevada to get their fill of those things as well.
Obviously Nevada is the most prevalent option for Californians. Oregon also has sports betting through the lottery with the ScoreBoard app, so those that live in upstate California can also be involved in that regard. Because most of California’s borders consist of either the Pacific Ocean or Nevada, the options are really only to head north or head west.
Arizona has yet to pass its own sports betting legislation and doesn’t seem to be all that close.
Bullet trains, cheap flights, reasonable drives, whatever it takes to get to Nevada, that is how it will be for interested sports bettors in California at least through 2020. We’ll see if that extends into 2021 and beyond and we’ll see if Californians get the option of online and mobile wagering or if they are stuck with retail betting. It could be a really ugly fight from July through the general election in November between the tribes and everybody else with a stake in the vote.