01
Mar
2021

California sports betting – the current state of play

Ringside 11/02/2021

Whether you are based in California or not right now, you might be aware of the ongoing tug of war concerning the legalization of sports betting in the state.

This is a topic that has raged in the state since it was first discussed back in 2018. This was actually a pretty exciting time for residents of CA who enjoy the odd wager or two. But unfortunately, despite the fact that CA has more relaxed laws than other states for many things, a push for legal sports betting has not really taken off just yet.

Therefore, at the time of writing, all forms of sports betting in the state is completely prohibited by law. And although there was another attempt to change this in the first half of 2020, you could say that other global events kind of got in the way! It would be fair to say that this initiative no longer stood as a priority in the state, despite the efforts from both established brands and government officials who are in support of this change.

So, with this said, the bottom line is that sports betting is still not possible by law in the state of California (with the exception of betting on horse racing at racetracks). This includes bets that are made in-person and through any kind of online platforms, which is obviously not ideal for those that want to engage in this activity. As we continue deeper into 2021, we have no doubt that new initiatives surrounding this issue will be raised, but there is obviously no guarantee that sports betting will become legalized here in the near future.

While we are hopeful, it’s simply a fact that we all must wait and see how things develop.

FAQs on California online sports betting

What forms of sports betting are actually allowed in California right now?

There is just one form of sports betting that is currently allowed in CA, and that is betting on horse races at designated tracks. This has been the case for almost 90 years in California, and we expect this to continue to be the case for the foreseeable future.

Is there an estimate on when sports betting might become legalized?

In a word, no. While the initiative is constantly being raised to allow all forms of sports betting in California, there are a number of hurdles that still need to be overcome before any form of legal sports betting takes place. This includes changes to government regulations, acceptance from tribal casinos, and a generally positive consensus from residents of the state.

Is there a way to get around the current rules?

Many residents of California do get around the restrictions on sports betting in several ways. The most obvious would be to simply travel over the border and place bets in Vegas, where sports betting is 100% legal. Another option that residents sometimes shoot for includes using a VPN to open off-shore betting accounts. While this is allowed by many betting brands, it’s still a bit of a grey area.

Are there any current bills in the pipeline to approve sports betting?

Yes – there is a bill that is currently sitting with the respective government officials in order to approve sports betting. This bill is actually defined as a petition that is currently gathering signatures, as issued by the relevant tribal casinos, and the requirement is to acquire enough signatures to justify any kind of legal changes.

Metta Artest
NBA

If approved, what kind of sports will I be able to bet on?

Well, the very first sport that we’d expect to be supported would be horse racing, since you can currently do this at official racetracks already. But beyond that, while we cannot say with any kind of certainty, we would expect that popular US sports like these would be established first.

  • basketball
  • hockey
  • football
  • baseball

This is expected as it would align with the general interests of residents in the state.

What will the restrictions be for opening an online sports betting account?

We would expect the restrictions to be aligned with the restrictions that are currently in place for other states where sports betting has been legalized. These restrictions usually stipulate that you must be over the age of 21 and be based in the state to actually sign-up and make any wagers. Such details will also need to be verified, which typically requires that you email through proof of your address and proof of ID.

Are there any brands that are expected to enter the market first?

Again, we cannot say with 100% certainty, but we believe that brands that already have a presence in multiple states will be eager to enter California first. These brands include the likes of FanDuel, DraftKings, and William Hill. Not only do these brands have established sites in many states, but they are publicly making a big push to expand throughout America.

Why is DFS allowed but sports betting not?

Good question! Daily fantasy sports contests are not technically ‘legal’ in California, but there is nothing in the current legislation to state that they are ‘illegal’ either. For this reason, California residents are able to participate in a whole range of fantasy sports contests at some of the leading online brands like DraftKings and FanDuel.

Alternative ways of making sports bets in California

Although you may have found it disappointing to learn that California sports betting isn’t possible online or in-person as of yet, there are a few ways that people can already engage in this activity without breaking any laws. After all, if sports betting isn’t approved in the coming months or years, you will likely be getting more and more frustrated with not having access to this activity. That’s why we’d like to give you a bit of good news and show you how it is still possible to make sports bets if you are a California resident.

Head to Vegas

The first and most obvious way of getting around the current restrictions is to head next door to Sin City. How viable this is for you depends on where in California you actually live. If you live close to the border, you are just a few hours drive away from Las Vegas, which would mean that it is possible for you to go there and place sports wagers in any of the sportsbooks. There is certainly no shortage of sportsbooks for you to choose from, and here you can wager on just about any sport in the world.

Las Vegas

Of course, this isn’t absolutely ideal as you still need to travel there and back to make your bets, or invest extra money by staying overnight in Vegas. But then again, you’d need to ask yourself just how badly you wanted to make some sports bets and whether you are willing to make this kind of sacrifice. We must also add too – it can be pretty fun to enter into a physical sportsbook and make bets while watching the game along with a bunch of other people. This is something that you don’t really get with online sports betting.

Off-shore betting accounts

While the above option is absolutely legal, and a great option for many, this one is certainly far more convenient – despite the fact that it’s a bit of a grey area. Whenever you see the term ‘off-shore betting account’, this simply means that the brand does not operate in the US market. Instead, the brand will be based in some other country, but many will actually allow you to open an account and start placing sports bets. One of the prime markets for off-shore betting accounts is for brands that are based in Europe, where the gambling restrictions are significantly more relaxed compared to the US market.

In order to open an off-shore betting account, you would likely need to use either a mirror link or a VPN. The first option is simply a different URL that is used to access your desired betting site, but don’t worry, the appearance and functionality of the site will be exactly the same, even when accessed through such links. The second option is to use a VPN to sign-up with alternative betting sites that are not based in the US. Of course, site’s will track your IP address these days, and if they see that you are attempting to sign-up and make bets from California, you will likely be denied.

Just to reiterate our views on this, while both options are perfectly viable and there is no legal legislation to prevent you from doing this, it is still a grey area. This means that you should research what you are doing thoroughly in order to avoid any unwanted problems.

Participate in fantasy sports contests

The final option, of course, isn’t technically sports betting, but it at least gives you a way to become involved in sports without specifically ‘betting’. Fantasy sports contests do require an entry fee most of the time, and there can be enormous payouts depending on the competition that you enter. But unlike any kind of legal sports betting activities, you are not betting on the outcome of an event here. Instead, you are picking fantasy players that you think will perform well from week to week, with the hope that they will make the fantasy line-up and you will start racking up some points.

If you manage to accumulate enough points, you could start competing for some rather large cash prizes at multiple online providers. Even if you’ve never experimented with fantasy sports contests in California before, they can be truly fun and competitive. To add to that, they don’t carry any kind of significant financial risks either.

Ongoing developments for sports betting in California

If you are feeling a bit down in the dumps about what you’ve read for online sports betting in California thus far, we would like to assure you that it isn’t all doom and gloom. In fact, there are a number of positive factors that indicate that ultimately, sports betting should receive the stamp of approval for California residents. With that said, let us share with you some of the more exciting movements to get sports betting legalized in this state.

More urgency due to the current economic climate

As you can see, this is not anything to get excited about in terms of bills put forward or government intentions, but it is something that definitely needs to be considered as a likely catalyst for change. Due to the economic impact of the pandemic, California is now estimated to be suffering a budget deficit in excess of $50 billion. This is now public knowledge thanks to government figures published, but at the same time, the state estimates that full legalization of online sports betting could bring in more than $500 billion in annual revenue.

Of course, this would be a major source of income for the state, and with ongoing pressures still occurring due to the pandemic, this reality could cause change quicker than we thought!

Lebron James Patrick Mahomes Floyd Mayweather
NBA / NFL / Stacey Verbeek

Support of professional leagues and teams for sports betting

In the middle of last year, a bill was put forward (one of many) to make changes to sports betting laws in CA. And while these bills typically come from different authorities, in all states, this one was particularly significant due to the backing of high-profile teams and leagues. Although nothing was officially confirmed, there are many sources that claim that this bill received the backing of the NFL, NBA, PGA Golf, as well as individual teams such as the Golden State Warriors and LA Dodgers too. Of course, the backing of such high-profile teams and institutions will undoubtedly have a greater impact on the powers that be concerning sports betting in this state.

To add to that, the bill apparently contained indications on how the various sports betting suppliers could use official league statistics to ensure fair odds and market prices.

Current tribal casinos pushing for legalization

Although nothing has been approved yet by any of the relevant authorities, there are still many tribal casinos that are pushing hard for change. Just to confirm, it is these tribal casinos that would need to obtain the license to start offering such services in California. And since they are relentlessly trying to obtain more signatures in support of their proposed bills, this certainly bodes well for residents that are hopeful of changes in the near future.

With that said, these casinos still need to go through a ballot process, with the next one expected to be held in 2022. As you can see, this would suggest that no changes to online sports betting would come into effect until at least next year.

Changes in other states around the US

Again, this development isn’t anything specifically to do with changes in California government legislation, but it’s something that will apply even more pressure on the proposed changes. Over the last few years, sports betting has been legalized at an incredible rate all across the US. And it’s not all about the FOMO factor for California either – the economic implications of legalizing sports betting in these states have been phenomenal. Multiple states are currently raking in billions from licensing fees and sports betting taxes, which begs the question – how long will California continue to ignore such statistics for?

Potential sportsbooks that would enter the market first

If sports betting does ultimately become approved in California, which we fully expect, it goes without saying that there will be a rush of providers wanting to enter the market. On that note, there are a few brands that we feel would make the jump ahead of all others, and we’ve talked about them below.

FanDuel

To put it bluntly, it would be a massive surprise if we didn’t see FanDuel enter the California market soon after legislation changed. FanDuel was one of the first brands to truly press on influential government officials, at a national level, in order for sports betting to be legalized. This showed clear intentions for FanDuel to become a national provider for such services, and currently, this brand offers online betting in multiple states such as West Virginia, New Jersey, and many others.

William Hill

William Hill joined the US market a little later than the other brands we’ve talked about, but it is a brand that just embodies quality. Currently, William Hill offers sports betting and casino gaming in more than 5 states in the US, but this isn’t the main reason we believe that they will come to California with urgency. William Hill has been extremely tactical concerning their advancements into fresh US markets, striking up strategic partnerships with several physical casinos in order to obtain the necessary licenses. If the brand continues along this path, we do not doubt that they will replicate the same moves in California.

DraftKings

Just like FanDuel mentioned above, DraftKings is a brand that really supported sports betting changes in the very early stages of government talks. DraftKings was already promoting the legalization of online sports betting back in 2017/2018, and even then, the site already had one of the best fantasy sports set-ups in the country. To add to this, DraftKings leapt into online casino gaming rather early too. Currently, DraftKings is providing online sports betting services in many states including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, with many others also in-play.

We can’t think of many other brands that have expanded quite as rapidly as DraftKings over the last two years, which is the final justification we needed to state that DraftKings could enter California as one of the first.


Reasons why California is such a prime market for online sports betting

To top things off, we have to consider the actual appeal of California as a sports betting market in the first place. After all, if it just wasn’t feasible or worthwhile for brands to come to the market and for the state governors to make such legal changes, nothing would ever happen. But on that note, there are many indicators that show the benefits of legalizing sports betting in this state.

Number of established tribal casinos

At the time of writing, there are almost 70 established ‘Indian Casinos’ operating within California. This is a pretty significant number compared to other states, and it’s not just the number of casinos that makes this a key indicator. Keep in mind that these casinos have been operating successfully for a while now, and wouldn’t they want to increase revenues by implementing a sports betting income stream to their business? We believe that from a business perspective, they would be eager to make such a move, although only time will tell.

Wagering statistics from in-person horse racing betting alone

As we’ve mentioned earlier, it is actually legal to bet on horse races at physical racetracks around the state. Of course, this in itself is something that will serve as an important factor when it comes to any legal changes for sports betting. But to add to this, the estimated value in USD wagered on all California state races topped $3 billion back in 2017. Just imagine the associated taxes that the government could then apply on such large numbers, and this is without the option of online sports betting!

Current taxes generated from other betting activities

Of course, to justify legalizing sports betting, the state will primarily want to see what this would add to the bottom line – economically. With the current state of play, California is already generating upwards of $300 million in taxes based on cards and casino gambling, but sports betting is another huge sub-category of the betting industry that is yet to emerge. We believe that the potential taxes is another huge factor that could sway the opinions of state governors!