California Trying To Get Ahead Of The Game With Sports Betting Amendment

Written By Jessica Welman on July 21, 2017 - Last Updated on August 31, 2022
swimmers in a race

[toc]Watch out Vegas, the West Coast could have another sports betting hot spot in the future.

Yes, sports betting is still available in only a few states, like Nevada. However, if the Supreme Court rules in favor of New Jersey in its upcoming sports betting case, that could quickly change.

With New Jersey challenging the legality of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), there is a window for new states to get in on sports betting.

Because of this, California sports betting could be coming. Assemblymember Adam Gray announced he is introducing a constitutional amendment in the state Assembly to allow for sports betting if the law changes.

California following the lead of Connecticut and Mississippi

It may seem premature to start talking about statewide sports betting while PASPA is still in effect. However, other states already passed similar amendments as the one Gray is proposing. Connecticut passed its sports betting amendment last month. Mississippi followed suit a few weeks later.

By putting regulations in place in advance of a possible favorable ruling from SCOTUS, these states will be ready to start accepting bets with minimal turnaround time.

Given how many states are expanding gambling, not to mention how competitive the casino market is getting, this leg up is key.

California is the most populous state in the union with 40 million residents. The state is not exactly known for being ahead of the curve when it comes to gambling.

Lawmakers have been trying and failing to pass an online poker bill for a decade. Additionally, a California daily fantasy sports (DFS) bill was not passed last year. It is worth noting DFS sites still accept California customers.

Gray wants to take customers away from offshore sites

Gray’s intention with the amendment is not to come after its neighbor, Nevada. Rather, it is about making sure its own residents have a legal and regulated way to bet in their own state instead of on offshore sites.

Gray explains:

“Whether we like it or not, Californians are already betting on sports through illegal and often unscrupulous websites in foreign countries. It is time to bring this multibillion dollar industry out of the shadows. We need to crack down on illegal and unregulated online gaming and replace it with a safe and responsible option which includes safeguards against compulsive and underage gambling, money laundering, and fraud. All other gaming activities in California are subject to regulations that ensure the safety of consumers. Sports wagering should be treated no differently.”

What is the next step for the sports betting amendment?

The sports betting proposal is a constitutional amendment. Therefore, it needs to do more than just pass through the state legislature. It also needs to be approved by voters via a ballot referendum.

While California gambling measures struggled in the past, sports betting does stand a better chance than, say, online poker. After all, poker has a number of hands in it, all with vastly different interests. Sports betting, on the other hand, would have more universal support.

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Jessica Welman

A graduate of USC and Indiana University, Jessica Welman has long been involved in the poker industry. She has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and as the managing editor for

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