The Silver State? California No. 2 In Economic Impact From Casinos

Written By TJ McBride on October 18, 2023 - Last Updated on November 17, 2023
Photo of a silver medal, an economic graphic and an outline of California on a story about the state's economic impact.

California may have only tribal casinos, but the economic impact on the state from those casinos is massive.

California casinos have had a nearly $20 billion annually economic impact on the state, according to a survey by the American Gaming Association.

That ranks California second in economic impact behind only Nevada, which is home to Las Vegas, the gambling mecca of the US.

Sports betting, commercial casinos and online casinos could push California to the top spot, but none of the three are on the horizon in California.

How much economic impact do CA casinos produce each year?

The California casino market consists of roughly 70 tribal casinos spread all throughout the state, which is third most in the nation. Only Nevada and Oklahoma house more casinos. These tribal options are the only traditional casino options in the state. California online casinos are illegal, as are commercial casinos and sports betting.

Still, California casinos produced $19.96 billion of annual economic impact, which is second most in the country, according to the AGA report. While this might be because of a lack of options outside of tribal casinos, it still speaks to just how huge the California tribal casino market is.

Here are how the top 10 states stacked up by economic impact and how many casinos each state houses, according to the AGA report:

  1. Nevada: $55.96 billion economic impact; 220 casinos
  2. California: $19.96 billion; 85 casinos
  3. Oklahoma: $9.8 billion; 142 casinos
  4. Florida: $7.55 billion; 15 casinos
  5. New York: $6.55 billion; 31 casinos
  6. New Jersey: $6.45 billion; 9 casinos
  7. Pennsylvania: $6.34 billion; 16 casinos
  8. Michigan: $6.28 billion; 26 casinos
  9. Louisiana: $6.13 billion; 24 casinos
  10. Washington: $5.39 billion; 35 casinos

California casinos support nearly 125,000 jobs

California did not just thrive in number of casinos and total economic impact. It also took the silver medal for tax impact and jobs supported.

Again, only Nevada stands above California in these categories, but the Golden State is thriving, nonetheless. The state’s annual tax impact from casino gaming is $3.45 billion. Incredibly, that number is still less than half of Nevada’s $8.27 billion.

California casinos also support more jobs than every other state other than Nevada. With 124,274 jobs supported, the state is one of just two to reach past the 100,000 jobs threshold.

Here are the top 10 states for tax impact from casinos along with the number of jobs casinos support:

  1. Nevada: $8.27 billion tax impact, 410,456 jobs supported
  2. California: $3.45 billion; 124,274 jobs
  3. Pennsylvania: $2.48 billion; 33,171 jobs
  4. New York: $2.03 billion; 25,784 jobs
  5. Oklahoma: $1.69 billion; 75,885 jobs
  6. Florida: $1.56 billion; 54,142 jobs
  7. Louisiana: $1.5 billion; 40,919 jobs
  8. Michigan: $1.3 billion; 37,911 jobs
  9. New Jersey: $1.19 billion; 39,007 jobs
  10. Washington: $768.9 million; 35,044 jobs


Sports wagering remains in limbo in California

With the California Legislature set to reconvene in January, the hope is that sports betting might be prioritized. That hope has so far been proven to be unfounded. No initiatives have been filed after two sports wagering bills were defeated in 2022 by a landslide.

Considering just how successful tribal casinos alone have been in California, it is hard not to wonder just how much money could be generated from legal sports wagering. California is a gold mine of a potential sports betting market and is considered the largest untapped market in the world. So, is there any chance sports wagering could be legalized in the near future?

From the legislative side of things, it is unlikely in 2024. Tribal casinos literally own the gaming marketplace in California outside of Fliff, which is a social sportsbook that is currently caught up in a lawsuit about the legality of its business in California.

For tribal casinos, sitting by as sports wagering is legalized is not an option. They do not want to lose their near monopoly over the massive California gaming market. That is why two tribal coalitions spent upwards of $220 million to defeat the 2022 online sports betting proposition.

After the defeat of the proposition supported by major sportsbooks, DraftKings Chief Executive Officer Jason Robins said there is too much tribal resistance to pass any sports betting bill for now.

“The lesson learned is if anyone wants to drop that kind of spend, it doesn’t matter what the issue is. You could defeat any ballot initiative pretty much, at least for a period of time. … I’d say, as of now, there’s really just too much tribal opposition to imagine us getting anything done.”

So, the simple truth is sports betting will not make its way into the Golden State until the tribes agree to a bill that makes sense for them as well.

Photo by Shutterstock / Illustration by PlayCA
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TJ McBride

T.J. McBride is a writer and reporter based in Denver. He covers the gaming landscape across multiple states in addition to his main beat covering the NBA's Denver Nuggets. His NBA work can be found at several major media outlets including ESPN, FiveThirtyEight and Bleacher Report.

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