Recent data show that online searches for illegal sportsbooks are up 38% this year in the United States. And there are significantly more searches in states where sportsbooks are not yet legal or regulated. In fact, 75% of California searches for sportsbooks are for illegal brands.
Sports betting in California may still be illegal, but that isn’t stopping it from thriving on the black market.
CA search data consistent with other states
Sports betting is still not legal in the three most populous states in the U.S. — California, Texas and Florida. Like California, roughly 75% of all sports betting searches in Texas and Florida are for illegal, offshore brands. Of the three, California has the highest percentage.
Other data from the American Gaming Association show that half of sports betting searches (54%) in the country go to unregulated sites. However, in legal states, just 27% of searches are for illicit sportsbooks. That number shoots up to 68% in states where sports betting is illegal.
States such as Alabama, Mississippi and Idaho have as high as 80% of their betting searches related to offshore sites. Plenty more have 70% or more of their searches go to illegal sportsbooks. Of the states to fall into this category, just Louisiana, Arkansas, Washington and Montana have legalized sports betting, while the rest have not.
On the flip side, states with the most booming regulated markets, such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan, have the best ratio of legal-to-illegal searches. In total, 14 states had 40% or less of their sportsbook-related searches go to unregulated sites. All 14 of these states have legal sports betting in some form.
California’s next hurdle is finding one solution
Legalization is a tricky subject when it comes to sports betting in California. Rather than coming together to craft and support a single measure for the upcoming election in November, the state’s tribal casinos are competing against sportsbooks by supporting different initiatives.
Native American tribes are unsurprisingly in favor of a measure that would only permit legalized sports betting to tribal casinos and racetracks. This measure would leave all other forms of sports betting illegal and prevent outside competition from entering the market. Furthermore, mobile sports betting would also remain illegal.
By contrast, the initiative backed by sportsbook operators would bring online sports betting to the Golden State. Online sportsbooks would partner with federally recognized tribes, and 85% of tax revenue would support homelessness and mental health support programs.
Of course, these two measures will also compete with those who oppose legal sports betting altogether. All sides are expected to spend millions of dollars to win at the polls in November.
Mobile betting would bring in more money
Beyond support for mental health and homelessness, the card room-backed bill should generate more revenue for the state, given it will legalize mobile betting.
Mobile wagers account for most of the action in all states that have legalized mobile sports betting. Should it become legal in California, the state should expect similar results.
California is also the most populous state in the country and is home to 19 major professional sports franchises. California would be the fifth-largest global economy if it were a country. Some estimates suggest the state could bring in more than $3 billion in annual sports betting revenue.
Countering that, the tribes claim that mobile betting leads to increased crime and addictions. They also say their measure ensures that all bets placed in California will be made at already regulated and transparent locations.