Legal Sports Betting In CA? 29 Palms Tribe’s Sparket App Comes Close

Written By Steven Schult on March 31, 2023
Californians can win real money betting on March Madness

Californians can’t legally wager real money on this year’s Final Four. But they can win real money on the games through a free-play app run by one of the California tribes.

If either one of the California sports betting ballot initiatives passed last November, the presence of San Diego State in the March Madness Final Four would undoubtedly boost the betting handle.

Instead, Golden State bettors can use the Sparket app to access “free-to-play” betting software.

In a partnership agreement with the 29 Palms of Mission Indians, Sparket licensed its Social Betwork software to the tribe.

The federally recognized tribe has a reservation in Southern California consisting of two sections. One is located in Riverside County, while the other is in San Bernadino County. They operate the Tortoise Rock and Spotlight 29 casino properties.

The tribe announced earlier this month that they would use the technology to offer promotions and contests. This includes the opportunity for its users to enter betting pools for the final three games of March Madness.

Sparket uses pari-mutuel betting pools to conduct business

In most sports betting situations, a sportsbook will set the odds of a match and risk its money against bettors wagering their own funds. This is also known as fixed-odds betting.

However, operators use pari-mutuel wagering in other betting situations to take bets. California horse racing uses this model, as does every other state that allows horse betting.

Pari-mutuel betting is a system where all the bets are placed together in a pool. The operator takes an operating fee and the odds are determined by calculating the share of all winning bets.

Sparket uses the same model with their free-to-play Social Betwork technology. In the “Club 29” pool run by the Mission Indians, there are pools available for the following categories:

  • NCAA March Madness Champions
  • Jersey color of the eventual National Champions
  • Most points scored by a San Diego State Aztec during the semifinals
  • Smallest margin of victory throughout the final three games
  • Total number of points scored in the UConn/Miami matchup

How can you enter?

Currently, those pools have a combined $188,477.22 worth of play money coins in the pools. If you want to participate, you can create an account through Sparket’s “Club 29” website.

Once at the site, you will fill out some basic information and verify your identification. Then, you’ll receive $1,000 worth of play money to wager in the pools.

If you win any of your bets, you must redeem your play money for cash at either of the tribe’s casinos. Spotlight 29 Casino is in Coachella, and Tortoise Rock Casino is in Twentynine Palms.

If you come up empty-handed with your March Madness bets, there will be more opportunities in the future. The tribe plans to use this technology to allow betting on other sporting events.

Sparket becomes second sweepstakes sportsbook in California

The Sparket app uses a similar model used by the other sweepstakes sportsbook in California, Fliff.

Fliff, and all other sweepstakes betting sites, use fake digital tokens that can be redeemed for cash prizes.

But there is one main difference between Sparket and Fliff. Fliff uses a traditional fixed-odds betting model, while Sparket uses pari-mutuel pools.

Double your Fliff Coins and Fliff Cash at Fliff Social Sportsbook
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Steven Schult

Steve serves as managing editor for PlayCA and a handful of other sites across Catena Media. The New York native is a veteran of the gambling world. He started covering high-stakes tournaments in 2009 for some of poker's most prominent media outlets before adding the broader US gaming market to his beat in 2018.

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