A bill seeking to legalize and regulate sports betting in California if the federal ban is ever lifted was introduced in the state legislature in 2015. However, it was largely ignored before ultimately being gutted and turned into a law extending the number of out-of-state horse races Californians could bet on during some of the bigger race days.
One half of the California legislature stood firmly behind a daily fantasy sports (DFS) bill in 2016. The bill breezed through committee hearings. It then came up one vote shy of passing unanimously in the California Assembly.
From there, the Senate sat on the bill. It added an amendment in June. The bill headed to committee, where it died. The San Manuel and Morongo bands of Mission Indians that own and operate a pair of Native American casinos in the state voiced opposition.
Even with the legality of DFS in California still an open question, major operators continue doing business. Lawmakers seem disinterested in stopping them either.
Legal gambling in California is basically restricted to card rooms offering approved peer-to-peer card games like poker, Native American casinos, the state lottery, and parimutuel wagering on horse racing. However, it’s not hard to find a place to gamble. The state features almost 100 card rooms and more than 50 tribal California casinos.
Sports betting laws in the United States
The proposed sports betting bill would have only allow betting in the state if the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was amended or repealed. It would also require a constitutional amendment in the state.
PASPA became law in 1992, making Nevada the only state allowed to offer legal sports betting. It also protected existing parlay sports betting in Delaware.
In the meantime, the amount of money bet on sports across America continues to rise. The American Gaming Association (AGA) says Americans bet more than $150 billion on sports in 2016. It also claims most of those wagers are with illegal bookies and offshore gambling websites.
New Jersey is fighting a battle to repeal the law, but has not found a court to support its position.
The United States Department of Justice December 2011 legal opinion on The Interstate Wire Act of 1961 also stands in the way of online sports betting. The decision concluded anything outside of sporting events falls outside the act’s reach.
The decision allowed state’s to sell lottery tickets online, and legalize and regulate online gambling. It also clarified the position sports betting is against the law.
The largest sports betting market in the country
The AGA estimates Americans wagered $154 billion on sports in 2016. It also claims nearly all of those wagers were illegal.
Broken down by population, that would mean California’s approximately 39.14 million people bet an estimated $18.7 billion on sports in 2016. California is the largest state in America, so it would likely represent the largest sports betting market in the country.
Daily fantasy sports in California
California currently does not regulate DFS. State lawmakers considered legalizing DFS in 2016. However, a bill passed in the Assembly died at the Senate level.
This means there is no legal framework, fees, or taxes associated with DFS operations in California. However, these operations still accept California players, operating in what amounts to a grey area.
What would a legal sports betting market look like in California?
California lawmakers respect the federal prohibition on sports betting. However, there is some interest in repealing the law, opening up a legal and regulated sports betting market in the state.
The 2015 sports betting bill set out how a California sports betting market would operate.
The state’s licensed gaming facilities would be licensed to take bets on sports. These facilities could accept telephone, computer, and electronic wagering. Players wagering would have to be 21 or older as well as inside California’s borders to bet. There would also be licensing fees for operators and taxes on revenues.
Of course, this bill needs to be rewritten and reintroduced first. That would require a member of the state legislature getting behind it too. In 2017, there doesn’t appear to be one at the ready.
Plus, gaming interests in the state are rarely on the same page. This has proven true for both online gambling and DFS.
Any effort to legalize sports betting in California would likely run into the same issues, with stakeholders in the state making it difficult to move forward in any kind of timely fashion.