California Sports Betting

California sports betting is closer than it has ever been to reality. Two initiatives on the November 2022 ballot could either separately or jointly turn the Golden State into a top destination for betting on sports. One would legalize online sports betting in California and the other would permit only in-person betting at casinos and racetracks.

California has always been a white whale for sports betting companies. Its immense population, the number of sports teams and overall effect on the country’s culture represent the biggest opportunity in the US for legal sports betting. However, California’s size has also been its greatest liability for legalizing sports betting because of the complexities this size creates.

Thus, there is no universal approval for either of the sports betting proposals in the state, even though they largely complement each other and have few conflicting points. The California Democratic Party opposes one of the measures (while remaining neutral on the other). So, as November 2022 approaches, it will be interesting to see which way public opinion leans. Whatever happens, this page has the latest news and details about the possibility of sports betting in California.

Latest news and updates

Updated: Aug. 5, 2022

A group of Native American tribes in California submitted a petition to put their own online sports betting proposal on the ballot in 2024. If Proposition 27 does not get approved this November, voters just might get a crack at doing so again in 2024. PlayCalifornia confirmed that the Graton RancheriaRinconSan Manuel and Wilton Rancheria tribal nations filed their petition on Monday.

However, while Prop 27 and this new petition both intend to legalize online sportsbooks, there are key differences, not the least of which is an in-person registration requirement in the 2024 proposal. Additionally, while Prop 27 makes tribal casinos a part of the ecosystem, the 2024 measure would make tribal casinos the center of that system with greater control. Read more.

Is sports betting legal in California?

No, sports betting is not legal in California at this time. There is no law on the books allowing Californians to wager on sports. However, the situation is fluid and may change dramatically in November 2022.

At present, two sports betting initiatives have secured places on the ballot. Although we will cover them in more detail below, they are separate measures for online and retail sportsbooks. November 2022 could usher in the dawn of sports betting in California as a retail-only activity, an online-only activity, or both. Of course, the vote might also go against both options, meaning at least another year of no legal sports betting in California.

When could California sports betting launch?

2023 at the very earliest. The next step will be seeing what happens with the November 2022 votes. The two proposals on the ballot have different elements and supporters, but the passage of at least one of them is necessary for sports betting to proceed. Even if that happens, a launch in 2023 might be optimistic.

The supporters of the retail proposal — multiple Native American tribes in the state — largely oppose the online proposal, which has the backing of a group of sportsbook companies. If Proposition 27 (the online measure) does pass, it’s more likely than not to face a court challenge from the tribes. If Proposition 26 (the retail measure) passes by itself, the chance of a legal challenge is less likely, but not impossible.

If both measures get the green light, then the chance of a legal challenge or delay might even be greater. Even if none of these challenges happen, there are probably still months of preparation that the state regulators, sportsbook owners and other stakeholders would need before sports betting could proceed in California. So, a 2023 debut would likely be no sooner than the summertime. Furthermore, it could easily stretch into 2024 if the legal battle ramps up.

What to know about the November 2022 sports betting initiatives

As the California vote draws closer, there is going to be an increasing amount of noise about both sports betting initiatives. Here we’ll go over each proposal’s details, including the parts they have in common. In both cases, bettors will need to be 21 or older. They will also have to be within state lines to place wagers. Each proposal also promotes a 10% tax rate on sports betting. Beyond those shared points, however, there are quite a few differences:

Proposition 26

Proposition 26, also known as the California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act, was the first sports betting proposal to secure its position on the ballot. Colloquially it’s the “tribal initiative.”

Proposition 27

Proposition 27, also known as the California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act, received its certification in July 2022. People also refer to it as the “online initiative.”

Retail. Prop 26 has no provisions for online sports betting. Furthermore, it states that online sports betting cannot occur in California for at least five years.

The Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Betting, a group of federally recognized tribes in California. The tribes have dozens of casinos among them and stand to benefit as the primary providers of sports betting in the state. The only other locations able to offer sports betting would be the state’s four racetracks. The proposition excludes California card rooms, which is in keeping with the tribes’ insistence that the rooms are not legitimate under state law.

This measure would prohibit wagering on in-state colleges and universities. Wagering on out-of-state colleges would be legal, so long as their opponents are not California teams. Any game involving a California university would be subject to the restriction, regardless of its location. However, it does not appear that popular events, such as the NCAA tournament (which the proposal mentions explicitly), would be subject to the restriction.

The state’s collection of 10% of gross revenues from sports betting is earmarked for broad subject areas where shortfalls abound. First and foremost, a portion of the taxes would help fund responsible gambling initiatives in the state. The remaining tax revenues would go into the state’s general fund to support educational and public safety needs and projects.

This proposal would also do away with the longstanding ban on the use of dice and balls in tribal casino games. In other words, the casinos would be able to offer standard craps and roulette, rather than the card-based versions in use now. The measure avoids any mention or acknowledgment of the state’s card rooms, which would suffer a tremendous blow if the measure becomes law.

Online. There are no stipulations for in-person sports betting in this proposal.

A coalition of top online sportsbooks is the primary driver of this effort. Companies like BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel and Bally’s have lent their vocal and monetary support to this initiative. While the measure calls for these companies to partner with tribal entities in California, most of the state’s tribes oppose it.

There are no types of bets that this proposal explicitly restricts. However, the measure affords the regulatory body quite a bit of latitude in terms of its veto power. The only definitive restrictions are on who can wager. First, owners, employees and the families of those two groups cannot wager at their own sportsbook. A similar restriction applies to athletes and other professionals involved with a particular sport — they cannot place wagers on their sport.

Although this initiative suggests the same 10% tax rate as the retail option, it diverges wildly by requiring sportsbooks to pay $100 million for their initial licenses and $10 million annually to renew. As the title of the proposition suggests, most of the money (85%) would go to support initiatives to combat homelessness. The remaining 15% would go to tribes not participating as sportsbook partners.

Although most of the state’s tribes oppose this measure, some support it. The Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians, the Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California and the Santa Rosa Rancheria Tachi Yokut Tribe are all on record that they are in favor of the measure.

California online sportsbook sites

If California legalizes online sports betting, here are some of the top online sportsbooks that could become available:

DraftKings Sportsbook

DraftKings Sportsbook

DraftKings is a well-known name in California due to its daily fantasy sports site. Its online sportsbook is a star in its own right, thanks to its long list of sports and innovative app design. A top feature on DraftKings is its betting carousel, which offers a custom list of bets based upon your previous activity and the preferences you’ve stated, offering a more personal experience.


 

betmgm casino

BetMGM Sportsbook

BetMGM Sportsbook represents the casino giant MGM Resorts International with a long and diverse list of sports on which to bet. Even more esoteric options, like Gaelic sports, have odds for betting. BetMGM also lets you adjust your open bets in a way that few other sportsbooks match.


 

FanDuel Sportsbook

Another company that initially made its mark as a DFS provider, the FanDuel Sportsbook app is notable due to its live betting and live streaming options. The biggest factor that sets it apart is its navigation, which makes it easy to find the information you need. The app also made a name for itself early on with same game parlays.


 

Bally Bet Sportsbook

Bally Bet is the sportsbook for Bally’s, a well-known gambling company. The online sportsbook itself is rather new, having launched in 2021, but it offers an easy-to-use app and competitive odds. The Bally’s name also carries some weight. However, the options and features on the app are still a work in progress that can still use some polish.


 

WynnBet Sportsbook

WynnBet is similar to Bally Bet because it is a new app from a trusted name in gambling. The app debuted in early 2022 and is the online sportsbook brand for Wynn Resorts, which operates the Wynn and Encore casino chains. Its presentation is suitably slick, but there are still some hiccups regarding the actual depth.

Retail sports betting in California: What to expect

If Prop 26, the retail sports betting initiative, does manage to pass, then there will be dozens of possible locations for retail sportsbooks in the state. All of the federally recognized tribes in the state that operate the 60-plus casino locations will be eligible for books. In addition, the four racetracks in the state could also be sportsbook locations. Here are some of the most prominent possibilities for retail sportsbook locations in the Golden State:

  • Pechanga Resort Casino: 45000 Pechanga Parkway, Temecula, CA 92592
  • Thunder Valley Casino Resort: 1200 Athens Ave., Lincoln, CA 95648
  • Viejas Casino & Resort: 5000 Willows Road, Alpine, CA 91901
  • Santa Anita Park: 285 W. Huntington Drive, Arcadia, CA 91007
  • Del Mar Thoroughbred Club: 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar, CA 92014

Online sports betting in California: What to expect

Proposition 27 aims to allow the state’s tribes to partner with online sportsbooks or launch their own to provide service to any of-age bettors inside state lines. The proposal is somewhat different from those in many other states in that it does not designate a maximum number of licenses and licensees that could set up shop in California. In theory, every tribe could have a partner.

However, the proposal’s licensing fees would act as a sort of self-reinforcing cap on the number of apps that might launch. Realistically, only the companies that have pushed for Prop 27 and a few others would have the resources to come up with a $100 million payment and $10 million each year for an initial license fee and renewal, respectively. So the main names to keep an eye on are probably closer to 10 in number — the seven who have supported Prop 27 (DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, Bally Bet, Fanatics, Barstool (Penn National) and WynnBet), along with Caesars, BetRivers (maybe) and PointsBet (maybe).

How to sign up at an online sportsbook

No matter how many might end up launching, the sign-up process would be fairly similar:

  1. Download the app and install it on your device.
  2. Register for an account and deposit money.
  3. Place a wager via the list of sports on the left or the featured bets in the center of the display.

Some states have temporarily mandated that new bettors visit one of the books in person to register their accounts. In fact, Nevada requires you to travel for most financial transactions, too. Thankfully, Prop 27 would not require in-person registration or banking.

It would, however, require you to be inside state lines to bet. Sportsbook apps use geolocation and your mobile device’s GPS to track your location. Although this is quite accurate, it also errs on the side of caution. If you are near the state lines or are getting a fuzzy signal, you might find the book denying you service incorrectly.

Bonuses and promotions

The exact bonuses will vary from book to book, but they usually fall into one of the following categories:

  • No Deposit/Welcome Bonus: Free site credits or bet vouchers.
  • Deposit Bonus: The app matches your deposit amount according to a specific percentage, up to a set maximum.
  • Risk-Free Bet: You wager as usual and keep anything you win. However, if you lose, you’ll receive a refund in site credits equal to a percentage of your total loss.
  • Loyalty Program: Same as at casinos, these offer chances at free or discounted swag, meals, or experiences.
  • Odds Boost: Rotating list of bets with augmented payouts, generally around an extra 15% to 33% of the original payout amount.

Placing bets on California sports teams

California is home to more major professional sports teams than any other state in the country, each with a passionate fanbase. Here are the main options should legal betting of some type become available:

  • Anaheim Ducks (NHL)
  • Golden State Warriors (NBA)
  • LA Galaxy (MLS)
  • Los Angeles Angels (MLB)
  • Los Angeles Chargers (NFL)
  • Los Angeles Clippers (NBA)
  • Los Angeles Dodgers (MLB)
  • Los Angeles FC (MLS)
  • Los Angeles Kings (NHL)
  • Los Angeles Lakers (NBA)
  • Los Angeles Rams (NFL)
  • Los Angeles Sparks (WNBA)
  • Oakland Athletics (MLB)
  • Sacramento Kings (NBA)
  • San Diego Padres (MLB)
  • San Francisco 49ers (NFL)
  • San Francisco Giants (MLB)
  • San Jose Earthquakes (MLS)
  • San Jose Sharks (NHL)

California is also home to more Division I colleges and universities than any other state. However, depending on the measure voters pass in November 2022 (if they pass one), betting on in-state schools may not be legal. Prop 26, the retail initiative, prohibits wagering on in-state college teams, regardless of where they are playing their games. Prop 27, the online initiative, has no such prohibition.

The only type of sports that won’t be available for wagering, no matter what November 2022 brings, is high school sports, which is the case in every state that allows sports wagering. Neither of California’s propositions goes against this universal prohibition.

California sports betting history

After the demise of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May 2018, a multi-year battle erupted in California about the possibility of allowing sports betting within state lines. At issue was the cross purposes of the many powerful stakeholders in the state who had an interest in sports betting. Learn more about California gambling and the various stakeholders here.

The two measures that reached the November 2022 ballot resulted from the efforts of two groups. The first measure, Prop 26, is the product of the tribal interests in the state, which zealously guard what they perceive as their exclusive right to offer gambling. The second measure, Prop 27, came from top online sportsbooks seeking to offer online betting in concert with the tribes.

Even though the two measures seem to flow alongside one another, the tribal interests behind Prop 26 remain hostile to the notion of Prop 27. So, if 27 does pass, expect the battles to continue, regardless of what happens with 26.

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Bart Shirley

Bart Shirley is a senior evergreen content writer for PlayUSA. He’s been writing and reporting on the gambling industry since 2013. Prior to working for PlayUSA, Shirley was a feature writer for QuadJacks, a site covering issues in poker. He also writes for BonusCodePoker, a poker satire site that lampoons the lighter side of card games. Shirley is a graduate of the MBA program at Texas Christian University’s Neeley School of Business and has a degree in English from Texas A&M University. He grew up in Houston, TX, and lives in Katy, just west of Houston. Shirley is also a former high school teacher. He is married, has one daughter, and practices Brazilian jiu jitsu in his spare time.

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