California Sports Betting Status

Following the May 14, 2018, US Supreme Court overturn of the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), 33 states have legalized sports betting. Among the largest are New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. As of May 2023, the nation’s three most populous states – California, Texas, and Florida – have yet to legalize sports betting. Despite multiple ballot initiatives, proposals, and court cases in each state, forward progress has come at a frustrating pace. It is unclear whether any of these states will have legal sports betting in the next 2-3 years.


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Legal Gambling in California

With some 39 million inhabitants, California remains the crown jewel of the United States legal gambling market. Though many would expect the state to be eager for a fresh source of tax revenue, the reality on the ground is more complex. California’s Gambling Control Commission regulates the state lottery, card rooms, and pari-mutuel wagering, while charitable gaming activities are the under the watchful eyes of county and municipal officials. The state’s casinos are operated by its many Native American tribes under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, or IGRA.

Thus, the most likely purveyors of sports betting in California would either be the state or any of its Native American tribes. If the it’s the state, it may follow the model of Connecticut or Virginia, where sports betting providers partner with the state lottery. If it’s the tribes, the end result may resemble something like Washington or what may come of Florida.

Tribal Gaming Compacts and the IGRA

In Washington, sports betting is only allowed on tribal lands. This follows from the rules set forth by the IGRA. That means you must be physically present in a tribal casino to bet on sports. However, Florida’s Seminole tribe initially took bets from throughout the state. This lasted a matter of days before a Federal judge ruled their compact with the state governor was in violation of the IGRA, effectively putting Florida sports betting on hold until either new compact is negotiated or the legislature legalizes sports betting on its own.

Status of Sports Betting in California

Most recently, the state of California voted against the legalization of sports gambling in 2022. While it remains unavailable for the time being, legislators have been quick to put together a new proposal. Opposition from key stakeholders makes it unlikely the process will be approved in 2023. Instead, late 2024-early 2025 seems to be the most likely timeframe, depending on the specifics contained in any California sports betting bill, or whether or not a sports betting ballot proposition can get a majority vote.

Potential California Sports Betting Revenue

In 2021, the total sports betting revenue in the United States was estimated to be $4.33 billion. This figure is only expected to continue growing as more states continue to legalize sports gambling. With the largest population and economy in the nation, California’s forecasted sports betting revenues will undoubtedly drive the national total substantially higher.

Likely California Sports Betting Providers

The nation’s biggest sports betting providers are already chomping at the bit to launch in California. Household names like DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM are all but certain to setup shop the moment California legalizes online gambling. Other likely CA sports betting sites include BetRivers and BetWay, two smaller brands that have established a solid footing in the US market across several states.

Following Fanatics acquisition of PointsBet’s US operations for $150 million, it remains unclear whether the PointsBet brand will continue in its current form or be relaunched under a different name. Regardless, it is highly likely Fanatics will launch some sort of sports betting operation in California as soon as it is able to do so. The obvious upside to this acquisition is an immediate list of customers and a recognizable second-tier brand name that could easily be upgraded to compete with the likes of FanDuel or DraftKings.

Ways to Bet on Sports in California

California regulators and/or tribal gaming counsels will ultimately decide which leagues are available for sports betting, and which betting markets are permissible in the state.

So far, every state has approved betting on professional sports. What varies from state to state is whether or not betting on college sports is allowed, particularly individual pregame player prop bets and live bets on player performance. At present, NCAA player props are prohibited in the vast majority of states where sports betting is already legal. California regulators will likely follow this trend.

Most of the debate will then fall to devising regulations about college sports futures bets, and whether or not bets can be placed on NCAA teams and events based in California. If California regulators prohibit betting on any NCAA event in the state, that would take a sizeable bite out of college football and college basketball betting handles, particularly if any championship event like the Final Four is held in the Golden State.


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Point Spread

The point spread attempts to equalize two mismatched competitors. The point spread line is the sportsbook’s estimated score difference. Lines move as a sportsbook balances its action. Depending on the sport, a sportsbook will offer lines for the game, first half, quarter, or period.

For example, if the Golden State Warriors are -6.5, they would need to win by 7 points or more in order to cover the spread.

If the Los Angeles Lakers are +6.5, they must win outright or lose by 6 or fewer points. All point spread bets push when the line is a whole number like 6 or 8 and the final score difference equals the point spread line.

Total

Bettors wager whether the combined point total will be over or under the sportsbook’s line. “o” stands for Over, “u” stands for under. Totals are commonly available for the game, first half, or period depending on the sport.

For example, suppose the total on an NFL matchup featuring the Los Angeles Rams is 49. If the final point total is 51, all over bettors would win. However, if it’s 45, all under bettors would win. If the point total is exactly 49, all bets push and the sportsbook will refund your wager.

Moneyline

Choose the outright winner. Favorites have a minus value. Underdogs have a plus value.

Betting $100 on the San Diego Padres to win at -150 odds would result in a $66.67 win, for example. However, let’s say you take the Los Angeles Angles to win at +185. A winning +185 moneyline wager would pay $185.

Parlays

A parlay combines multiple selections into a single bet. In order for the bet to win, each selection must win. If one selection loses, the entire parlay loses. Parlays can include point spread, total, moneyline, and props from one or more games.

Most sportsbooks allow you to combine selections from multiple leagues and sporting events.

Futures

A futures bet is placed at any point during the season prior to a championship, playoff, final standing, or league award announcement.

It’s likely eventual California sports betting providers will have a great selection of futures bets for major US sports leagues. Choose a team or player to win in advance of the event. Bets placed earlier in the season pay more than those placed later on, though they’re harder to win.

California lawmakers will ultimately decide whether or not to allow college sports futures bets.

Props

Bet on various outcomes indirectly related to a game’s final result. Decide whether a player will achieve a statistic over or under the sportsbook’s line, like the number of points, passes, tackles, goals, or hits in a game.

Sportsbooks also offer props for events unrelated to the game itself. Many enjoy betting whether the length of the Super Bowl National Anthem will go over or under the sportsbook’s line.

California regulators will determine whether or not to legalize college sports prop bets. This includes individual player prop bets that other states already prohibit.

Conclusion

Like other states, the fate of California ultimately resides with either the legislature or its citizens. So far, there’s not enough interest and inertia from either to push legalized sports betting across the finish line. If California’s Native American tribes offer sports betting, the IGRA will limit it to customers physically present on tribal lands. On the other hand, if the state offers sports betting via the lottery or a new organization altogether, it’s likely anyone within state lines could bet on sports.

Finally, there’s a lot at stake for California given the potential revenue the state could earn from legalized sports betting. Those tasked with regulating the industry in whatever form it takes must take care when creating rules and regulations for bets placed on college sports, particularly player prop bets. It is highly probable California will permit common betting markets for all professional leagues.