California Sports Betting
There is no legal sports betting currently in California. There is also nowhere in the US where sportsbooks are more eager to launch than in the Golden State.
California is the country’s most populous state with approximately 40 million residents. Sports are huge here, as well, with more major professional teams than any other state (nearly 20) and many top college teams. Such conditions couldn’t be better for sports betting, but the path to legalization is full of obstacles. The tribes, card rooms, racetracks, professional sports franchises, and online sportsbooks all want to be involved, thereby making the situation incredibly complicated.
Even so, California voters may soon get to weigh in on the subject. The November 2022 ballot could potentially feature multiple sports betting initiatives, although whether any will pass is anyone’s guess. With the invested groups each exerting their influence to support their favorite sports betting plan, expect a lot more conflict and debate going forward as the year progresses.
For Californians wanting to wager on sports, all of this political bickering offers little solace. The fact that sports betting is receiving discussion provides some hope, but for now, they have to be content to travel to each of the bordering states — Nevada, Arizona, and Oregon — to place legal sports bets.
Here at PlayCA, we’re keeping a close watch on every new development. If you’re looking for information about the current status of California sports betting and its prospects going forward, you’ve come to the right place.
Updated: May 4, 2022
Sports betting remains a hot topic in California. At one point it appeared up to four different initiatives related to sports betting might appear on the November ballot. Now it looks as though two ballot initiatives will make it.
One is supported by a coalition of 18 California tribes and already has sufficient signatures to appear on the ballot. The tribal coalition initiative would legalize sports betting in a limited way, starting with retail sports betting only at tribal casinos and horse racing tracks. A second sportsbook operator initiative would allow online sportsbooks to partner with CA tribes to offer mobile sports wagering in the state. Backers of that second initiative have now submitted well over the needed number of signatures, and so (pending the signatures’ verification) the second initiative will also appear on the ballot.
A third initiative backed by three CA tribes that would also give tribes exclusivity over sports betting is still in play, although its backers are now setting their sights on the 2024 ballot. A fourth initiative that had support from card rooms and city mayors failed to submit the needed signatures before its deadline.
Is sports betting legal in California?
No, sports betting is not currently legal in California. In order to place a sports bet legally, Californians and visitors to the Golden State must travel to one of the three states bordering it. Nevada, Arizona and Oregon each offer various types of legal sports betting.
Does California allow online sports betting?
The answer here is also no. There is no legal online sports betting in California. In fact, if the tribal coalition plan becomes the framework for sports betting in the state, there will still be no legal online sports betting, at least not for five to 10 years.
A Google search, however, might show you online sportsbooks that are willing to serve you if you’re in California. These sites are based outside of the US, and we recommend that you avoid them. Such “offshore” sites are not regulated in CA, which means you will have no legal recourse if you encounter any issues with them. Should there be a problem with the grading of your bets or concerns about the security of your funds, you’ll have to hope the sites respond adequately, as they will not be bound by California law to do so.
Finally, even if the sites are pure of heart and character, they may not have adequate network security. Remember, when opening accounts on such sites, you’re submitting key personal and banking details, which you would not want to end up in the hands of a hacker. Don’t risk your own identity and security over the convenience of betting from your home right now.
How have previous efforts to legalize sports betting in California fared?
Not very well. In 2017, Assemblymember Adam Gray tried and failed to introduce a constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting in the event that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was overturned. In 2018, the US Supreme Court did overturn PASPA, but California was unable to revisit the issue until the following year.
In 2019, Gray and Sen. Bill Dodd each proposed bills in their respective state chambers to include a ballot question about legalizing sports betting. Before those bills could get a hearing, however, the influential tribes introduced a different initiative designed to limit legal sports betting to tribal casinos and racetracks. That plan was thwarted, however, when the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the tribes from being able to gather the necessary signatures to secure a place on the 2020 ballot for their initiative.
Meanwhile, Gray and Dodd pursued their bills, adding details authorizing tribal casinos and racetracks to offer both retail and online sports betting while also offering some legal support for the state’s card rooms. The tribes objected to that latter idea and refused to support the bills. By June 2020, Dodd and Gray withdrew their legislation, as it was clear it would not advance in time to meet the deadline to make the November ballot.
The tribes subsequently redirected their efforts toward getting their initiative on the 2022 ballot, and ultimately succeeded in doing so. That’s where the discussion stands at present, with no specific sports betting legislation and only ballot initiatives (that, if passed, could pave the way for legislation) the focus for now.
Legal sports betting ballot initiatives in California
At least one sports betting initiative has already been assured a spot on the November 8, 2022 ballot. It presently appears a second will likely make it as well.
Two other initiatives were proposed, although one has already failed to acquire the needed signatures before its deadline and the other looks likely not to make it either. For these citizen-initiated ballot initiatives, the required number of signatures needed is 8% of the total votes cast for governor in the prior election, or in this case 997,139 valid signatures.
Here is all you need to know about California’s sports betting ballot initiatives:
1. California Legalize Sports Betting on Indian Lands Initiative
- Is it on the 2022 ballot? Yes.
- Known as the “tribal coalition plan”
This initiative has the backing of a group of 18 California tribes calling themselves the Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Betting. In May 2021, California Secretary of State Shirley Weber announced the coalition had obtained the necessary signatures for their initiative to appear on the ballot.
The measure calls for retail-only sports betting at tribal casinos and racetracks. The plan would not permit betting on in-state college teams, and it also would not allow any online sports betting for at least five to 10 years. Revenue from sports betting would be subject to a 10% tax rate. The plan would additionally remove the prohibition against games involving dice or a ball, thereby allowing tribes to start offering traditional roulette and craps in their casinos.
Unsurprisingly, the tribes do not have any authorization planned for California’s many card rooms, since the rooms’ very existence has been a source of contention for the tribes for many years.
2. Legalize Sports Betting and Revenue for Homelessness Prevention Fund Initiative
- Is it on the 2022 ballot? Yes.
- Known as the “online sportsbooks’ plan” or the “homelessness prevention plan”
A second initiative also collected enough verified signatures in early May, one seeking to fund support options for homelessness in the state. It has the backing of some of the largest sportsbooks in the country, including DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, WynnBET, Bally Bet, Fanatics Betting & Gaming, and Penn National’s Barstool Sportsbook. This initiative also has the support of a coalition of mayors from towns and cities around California.
This proposal would still keep tribes in control, but would allow mobile sportsbook operators to partner with tribes to provide online-only sports betting. Operators would pay a $100 million license fee and $10 million per year to renew. Meanwhile, the tribes would pay $10 million up front and then just $1 million per year. The plan calls for a 10% tax on revenue and those hefty license fees. Of that tax collected, following the covering of expenses, 85% of what’s left would be earmarked to fund homelessness programs. The other 15% would go to nonparticipating tribes.
Because it includes online sports betting, this plan has enjoyed plenty of financial support from prospective operators. But the tribes oppose this plan and have raised a lot of money as well to fight against it. In other words, expect a lot of campaigning on both sides of this initiative leading up to November vote.
3. Tribal Government Mobile and Retail Sports Betting Initiative
- Is it on the 2022 ballot? Not yet.
- Known as the “three tribes’ plan” or the “second tribal proposal”
This ballot initiative was the last submitted to the Attorney General’s office in early November 2021 and in January 2022 received a ballot summary and title. Like the online sportsbooks’ plan, this one would also give the tribes the exclusive right to offer online sports betting. It additionally would authorize retail sports betting as well as roulette and craps at tribal casinos.
Three CA tribes joined together to propose this initiative, with a fourth one joining the petition afterward. A late revision in December changed the language to propose the state amend its constitution to say that any California tribe could “offer online sports wagers entirely off of Indian lands and not be subject to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.” That revision additionally earmarked 15% of revenue for the Tribal Sports Wagering Revenue Sharing Trust Fund and another 10% to combat homelessness and mental illness.
Typically initiatives have 180 days to collect the needed signatures to appear on the ballot. Proponents of this one have a little less time, however, since all initiatives must submit and have verified the signatures before June 30, 2022 (131 days before election day). Given its late entry and conflict with other plans, the prospects for this initiative to make the ballot appear slim. Indeed, backers are already starting to discuss the 2024 ballot as a new target.
4. Legalize Sports Betting Initiative
- Is it on the 2022 ballot? No.
- Known as the “card room plan” or “cities plan”
Finally, this failed initiative was sometimes called the “card room plan” or “cities plan” because it had the support of some of the state’s largest card rooms as well as from the cities where those rooms operate.
The plan sought to allow not just the card rooms but also the state’s tribal casinos, racetracks, and professional sports franchises to launch both retail and online sports betting. This proposal would allow betting on in-state college teams. Initially, the proposal set the tax rate on the revenue at 25%, although that has been revised down to 15% plus an additional 1% to fund problem gambling programs.
Unsurprisingly, the states’ tribes were largely opposed to this plan given the ever present antagonism between the tribes and card rooms. Of all the initiatives, this one had the least financial support, and as many predicted it failed to collect the needed signatures before its April 18, 2022 deadline.
When will California launch sports betting?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question is tricky. The fate of these ballot measures will have a lot to do with when California could introduce legal sports betting.
In 2021, five different states had voters cast their opinions on ballot measures related to sports betting. In all five cases, those initiatives were approved, which would perhaps bode well for California. It’s worth noting as well that California lawmakers could also propose sports betting ballot initiatives of their own if they wished. If any did, they’d only need a two-thirds vote in favor in both the Assembly and House to add the measure.
Even if one or more sports betting ballot initiatives in California pass, there will still be much work to do before we see actual laws and regulations and then sportsbooks receiving licenses and launching.
This makes 2023 the soonest we would estimate for legal sportsbooks in California, but we’ll keep you updated.
Where will I be able to bet on sports in California?
Of all the questions about how sports betting will work in California, none is trickier to answer than where you’ll be able to do it. It seems like a basic question, but in the Golden State, there’s no simple answer.
Because of the aforementioned infighting among the different groups in the state, sportsbooks might pop up at tribal casinos, card rooms, racetracks, professional sports venues, or some combination of the above that specifically excludes one or more groups. We won’t have a sense about where you might be able to place a bet until at least the latter part of 2022.
Types of sports bets in California
Whether California legalizes online and retail sports betting or just retail betting, the types of sports bets are not going to change. Even if you use your mobile device or computer to bet, you shouldn’t worry about getting overwhelmed by too many new things. Here’s a quick rundown of the main types of bets that will be part of sports betting in the Golden State whenever it becomes available:
- Moneylines: A moneyline bet is a “straight” bet on one side to win a game, with no concern over point spreads. The odds indicate which side is the favorite and which is the underdog, with a winning bet on the favorite paying out less than one on the underdog. For example, say the Golden State Warriors are the favorite against the Los Angeles Clippers, with the Warriors’ odds at -240 and the Clippers’ at +190. A moneyline bet of $240 on Golden State would pay $100 if the Warriors win, while a $100 moneyline bet on Los Angeles would pay $190 if the Clippers win.
- Point spreads: Point spread bets do take into account the final score and how much a team wins by. For instance, in that GSW-LAC game, say the Warriors are a 5.5-point favorite. That means if you make a point spread bet on the Warriors, they’d need to win by six points or more for you to win your bet. Meanwhile, a bet on the Clippers as a 5.5-point underdog would win if Los Angeles wins the game or loses by fewer than five points.
- Totals: Wager on whether the total number of points in a game goes over or under a number that the sportsbook sets. Such bets are also called “over/under” bets. Say the totals line for a Los Angeles Rams-Arizona Cardinals game is 51.5 points. If you bet the over, you’ll need the two teams to score 52 points or more between them for your bet to win. If you bet the under, you’ll win as long as the two teams don’t combine for more than 51 points.
- Futures: Futures are bets on more distant events or outcomes. Popular futures bets include betting before or during the season on which team will win the championship, or betting on which player will win an MVP award. Futures can sometimes have long odds and thus be hard to win, although they pay out big if they do. For example, before the 2019-20 season, you could have bet on the Los Angeles Lakers to win the title at +450 (which they eventually did). If you had placed a $100 bet on the Lakers, you would have won $450.
- Propositions: Proposition bets or “prop” bets involve betting on events not necessarily related to the game’s outcome. For instance, you could make a prop bet on whether Stephen Curry will score over or under 28.5 points in his next game. That is an “individual prop,” but there are also “team prop” bets such as on how many rebounds a team will collectively gather, how many yards rushing a team will accumulate, and the like.
- Parlays: A parlay bet combines two or more wagers into a single bet, with each of the “legs” of the bet having to win in order for the overall bet to win. Parlays can be hard to hit, especially if they have a large number of legs, but the odds are usually very long and thus the payouts can be large. In a single night, you could bet a three-leg parlay that Golden State will cover the point spread versus the Clippers, that the Rams and Cardinals will go over the total, and that Curry will go over 28.5 points. All three will have to happen, though, for you to win your bet.
- Live betting: Online sportsbooks often also offer live betting or “in play” betting. These are bets on games that are already in progress. They can be moneyline, point spread, or total bets for which the odds have changed from what they were at the start of the game. They can also be prop bets, such as betting on the outcome of the next play.
Popular sports teams to bet on in California
As the most populous state in the US, California is a hotbed for sports at all levels. In fact, California has more professional sports teams competing at the highest level of play than any other state.
The National Football League is the most popular choice for sports bettors. The NFL season is the most active time of year for sportsbooks, and it’s no coincidence that new sports betting apps and operations often launch in the early days of September each year. Here are the NFL teams that hang their helmets in the Golden State:
- Los Angeles Rams: SoFi Stadium, 1001 Stadium Drive, Inglewood
- Los Angeles Chargers: SoFi Stadium, 1001 Stadium Drive, Inglewood
- San Francisco 49ers: Levi’s Stadium, 4900 Marie P. DeBartolo Way, Santa Clara
Betting on National Basketball Association games is also especially popular, with the 82-game NBA season and lengthy playoffs providing opportunities to do so for seven months out of the year. Four NBA teams make their home in California:
- Golden State Warriors: Chase Center, 1 Warriors Way, San Francisco
- Los Angeles Clippers: Crypto.com Arena, 1111 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles
- Los Angeles Lakers: Crypto.com Arena, 1111 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles
- Sacramento Kings: Golden 1 Center, 500 David J. Stern Walk, Sacramento
Major League Baseball odds are another popular option for bettors, and with a 162-game season (plus the playoffs), there are a multitude of betting options. Californians have a lot of choices for betting on in-state teams, as well, as five of the 30 MLB teams call the state home:
- Los Angeles Angels: Angel Stadium of Anaheim, 2000 E. Gene Autry Way, Anaheim
- Los Angeles Dodgers: Dodger Stadium, 1000 Vin Scully Ave., Los Angeles
- Oakland Athletics: RingCentral Coliseum, 7000 Coliseum Way, Oakland
- San Diego Padres: Petco Park, 100 Park Blvd., San Diego
- San Francisco Giants: Oracle Park, 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco
It makes sense that sunny California would host lots of baseball teams. But there are plenty of National Hockey League fans in the state as well, and the NHL’s long season roughly coinciding with the NBA’s means lots of chances to bet on hockey. California has three NHL franchises:
- Anaheim Mighty Ducks: Honda Center, 2695 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim
- Los Angeles Kings: Crypto.com Arena, 1111 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles
- San Jose Sharks: SAP Center at San Jose, 525 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose
Major League Soccer continues to grow in popularity, including among sports bettors. The season typically starts in late February, with the playoffs concluding in November, making it almost a year-round sport. California has three MLS teams:
- Los Angeles Football Club: Banc of California Stadium, 3939 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles
- Los Angeles Galaxy: Dignity Health Sports Park, 18400 S. Avalon Blvd., Carson
- San Jose Earthquakes: PayPal Park, 1123 Coleman Ave., San Jose
The Women’s National Basketball Association is also a fan favorite, with sportsbooks routinely including WNBA games among their choices of sports on which to bet. The season runs from May to October, providing basketball action during the summer and early fall. California has one WNBA franchise, albeit one of the most successful in WNBA history:
- Los Angeles Sparks: Crypto.com Arena, 1111 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles
College athletics, especially football, and basketball are some of the most popular sporting events in the US. In some cases, they are more popular than the pros. California’s massive population has led to a large number of universities with athletics programs. In fact, there is more Division I schools in California than in 12 other states combined.
Here are all of the schools with Division I NCAA programs in the state:
- California Baptist University
- California Polytechnic State University
- California State University (seven schools, including Fresno State)
- Loyola Marymount University
- Pepperdine University
- Saint Mary’s College of California
- San Diego State University
- San José State University
- Santa Clara University
- Stanford University
- University of California (six schools, including UCLA)
- University of San Diego
- University of San Francisco
- University of Southern California
- University of the Pacific
What we don’t know and will not know until sports betting gets much closer to launching in California is the extent to which you’ll be able to wager on these teams.
In-state college teams are a common target for legal and regulatory restrictions when states allow sports betting. Some areas ban college betting altogether. Others forbid wagering on in-state schools, and some do not allow certain types of bets on college games or players (like prop bets).
Of course, there are states that have no restrictions, and we can cross our fingers that California goes that direction. But it’s important to understand that those kinds of prohibitions might be on the table.
Snapshot of California sports betting
California has yet to legalize sports betting, although the potential for the state doing so has certainly increased over recent years. Should California legalize sports betting and operators begin launching retail and/or online sportsbooks, here’s a quick look at some key elements of the new California sports betting landscape.
- Sports betting legalized: Not yet. November 2022 ballot initiatives will likely prove the next factor determining legalization.
- Launch: 2023 at the earliest.
- Availability: Tribal casinos will most likely have retail sportsbooks, should they become legal. California card rooms, racetracks, and professional sports venues could potentially have them as well. State-wide online sportsbooks from these same operators are possible, too.
- ETA for online launch: 2023 at the earliest.
- Anticipated apps: Depends on legislation, although the state could handle a dozen or more if allowed.
- Legal age for sports betting: Likely 21+.
California Sports Betting FAQs
You’ll need to be 21 or older. California contains a mixture of gambling activities that require players to be either 18 or 21 to play. However, one of the few points of agreement on all of the recent ballot initiatives is a requirement that sports bettors be at least 21.
No, you will not have to be a resident of California to bet on sports should it become legal to do so. You will only need to be within state lines to wager. Obviously, if you’re betting in person, then your presence in the state is a given. However, if California does manage to legalize online sports betting, you will have to verify your location inside state lines before you’ll be able to bet.
Most likely, the California Gambling Control Commission. The CGCC is the regulatory authority that oversees both the card rooms and the tribal casinos in the state. That means unless the California Lottery makes a play for the job, the CGCC is the logical candidate to regulate sports betting.
It’s far too early to tell. It is possible that California will move to ban some types of wagering on college sports. Most often, in-state schools are the target of bans, which in this case would include UCLA, USC, Stanford, and other prominent schools. Some states also ban certain types of wagers on college games, such as individual proposition wagers or live betting. It remains to be seen whether California sports betting will include any such restrictions.
Should California legalize online sports betting, it is already clear that a number of popular online sportsbooks will be eager to accept bets from players in the state. DraftKings, FanDuel, and several other operators have formed a coalition to support one of the proposed ballot initiatives, thereby signaling their interest in coming to CA.