Legal Sports Report

California Eyes Legalized Sports Betting, Introduces New Bill

California sports betting

A bill that would legalize and regulate sports betting in California has been introduced in the state legislature.

What we know so far

More accurately, an old bill was gutted and amended to deal with sports betting, introduced by Assemblyman Adam Gray, who chairs the gaming committee in that chamber. AB 1441 would legalize sports betting in the state, but only if federal law and the state constitution are changed to allow it.

Here is the key passage from the California Interactive Sports Wagering Consumer Protection Act:

This bill would provide that its provisions would become operative only if the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act is amended or repealed to allow sports wagering in California and a state constitutional amendment to authorize sports wagering has been approved by the voters.

So while it’s interesting that California is eyeing the potential sports betting market, the state is hardly unique in this regard, and several dominoes would have to fall before sports books start popping up, even if this bill is passed.

The bill comes as New Jersey is fighting a losing battle regarding a law it passed attempting to allow sports betting within its borders. A federal circuit court ruled that PASPA prevents states from authorizing entities to take sports bets. The state has asked for a rehearing after its latest court defeat.

Legal Sports Report has reached out to Assemblyman Gray’s office for comment. Today is the final day of California’s legislative session.

The legislation came on the same day that a bill seeking to regulate daily fantasy sports was also introduced.

Who could offer sports betting, and how?

The bill would authorize already licensed brick-and-mortar gaming facilities to offer sports betting, including:

  • Card rooms
  • Race tracks
  • Tribal casinos

Those same gaming interests in the state have had issues getting on the same page in recent years regarding the ability to offer online gambling and poker, resulting in yet another stalled iGaming effort this year.

The bill would also authorize wagers that do not have to be placed in person:

The sports wagering authorized pursuant to this chapter shall be accepted and executed only using telephone, computer, or another method of electronic wagering communication.

Other takeaways from the bill

  • Entities wishing to offer sports betting would have to pay a licensing fee (to be determined).
  • Licensees would have to pay a percentage of their total gaming win to the state each quarter. That amount is also TBD.
  • Bettors must be within California’s borders to place a sports bet.
  • Bettors must be 21 years of age.

Can PASPA be repealed?

The debate over sports betting has gotten a lot of traction in recent weeks, mostly because of the New Jersey case. The latest ruling there has made it seem nearly impossible for states to offer sports betting on their own, or to win that right via the courts.

While all hope is not quite lost in the New Jersey appeal, it’s becoming clear that the easiest and most likely route to legalized sports betting would be via a repeal of PASPA.

How likely is that to happen? Given the fact that the current federal prohibition (outside of Nevada) is almost completely ineffective, legalizing and regulating sports betting seems like it should be an easy choice. An estimated $95 billion will be wagered on football this fall in the United States, almost all of it illegally.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has been at the forefront of the issue, calling for Congress to take PASPA off the books.

What remains to be seen is what kind of appetite legislators at the federal level have for potentially opening up the floodgates for sports betting to be offered at the state level.

Photo by Thomas Schlosser used under license CC BY 2.0

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Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.