California sports betting is the subject of two competing ballot measures. Voters in the state will decide between Proposition 26 and Proposition 27 on Nov. 8, 2022. Prop 26 would legalize retail sports betting; Prop 27 would legalize online sports betting.
Depending on which sports betting initiative wins, sportsbooks could begin appearing in California as soon as 2023. Sports betting proponents in California are pushing hard to make wagering on sporting events a legal reality.
What are Prop 26 and Prop 27?
The two ballot measures up for consideration in November 2022 would, if passed, introduce a form of sports betting to the state.
One measure, Prop 26, is a retail proposal that would place in-person sportsbooks at California tribal casinos and racetracks. The other, Prop 27, would legalize online sports betting with no numerical cap on sports betting sites.
Below are the nuts and bolts for each California sports betting proposition.
Prop 26: CA tribal sports betting initiative
Prop 26 is a retail-only proposition for sports betting. Close to 60 California tribes support this proposal that could bring in an estimated $100 million in tax revenue annually. Since August 2022, the group has spent more than $199 million in advertising for Prop 26 and against Prop 27. Read more about the details of Prop 26 here.
|Retail, online, or both?||Retail only; online prohibited for at least 5 years|
|Potential sportsbook locations||~60 tribal casinos and 4 racetracks in California|
|Primary supporters||50+ California tribes|
|Primary opponents||Cardrooms, commercial casino operators, online sportsbook companies|
|Restricted wagers||In-state colleges, high school sports|
|Advertising spend||More than $199 million as of August 2022|
|Estimated annual revenues||$1 billion|
|Estimated tax revenue||Below $100 million|
|Tax revenue allocation||Problem gambling program funding - 15%
Gambling policy enforcement - 15%
California General Fund - 70%
|License fee||To be negotiated by tribes and state via gaming compacts|
|Additional details||Would allow tribes to offer craps and roulette
May permit tribes to sue cardrooms
Prop 27: CA online sports betting initiative
An online-only proposal, Prop 27 is backed by a coalition of seven online sportsbook companies, including DraftKings and FanDuel. Tax revenue is estimated to be closer to $200 million annually, with the bulk of that allocated to help homelessness in California. Matthew Waters talks about Prop 27 in more detail here.
|Retail, online, or both?||Online only; no provisions for in-person betting|
|Potential number of apps||No numerical cap
App operator must be licensed in 10 states, OR
App operator must be licensed in 5 states and own 12 casinos
|Primary supporters||Bally’s Interactive
Fanatics Betting & Gaming
|Primary opponents||California tribal groups|
|Restricted wagers||High school sports|
|Advertising spend||More than $187 million as of August 2022|
|Estimated annual revenues||$3 billion|
|Estimated tax revenue||~ $200 million|
|Tax revenue allocation||Homeless programs and resources - 85%
Tribes without online sports betting partnerships - 15%
|License fee||$100 million for initial license
$10 million for license renewal every 5 years
|Additional details||Has support of 3 California tribes
Contains language that it does not conflict with Prop 26
Is likely to endure legal challenges if passed
What’s happening in California sports betting right now
- Oct. 3, 2022 – The push to pass both Prop 26 and Prop 27 is entering the last month with the vote coming up Nov. 8. Industry insiders are pessimistic about either passing.
- September 25, 2022 – The Sacramento Bee is against both Prop 26 and Prop 27.
- September 21, 2022 – The campaign behind Prop 27 is scaling back its TV advertising and moving to more digital and mail communications, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
- September 16, 2022 – Funding for the passage of Prop 27 by the seven sportsbooks backing the campaign is just shy of $170 million.
- September 12, 2022 – Another $50 million flowed into campaigns that are for and against online sports betting in California since September 1. That includes an additional $19.2 million combined from DraftKings and FanDuel, according to PlayCA.
- September 6, 2022 – The California State Association of Counties representing all 58 counties in the state voted to oppose the online sports betting measure that will be on November’s ballot.
- August 26, 2022 – Another $15 million was injected into the Prop 26-Prop 27 fight, PlayCA reported. That brings the total to more than $370 million.
- August 24, 2022 – A new ad from the tribal-funded group supporting Prop 26 shows the more than 50 tribes against the online sports betting proposal compared to the three that support it.
- August 22, 2022 – The California Republican Party opposes both sports betting proposals on November’s ballot.
- August 12, 2022 — The MLB came out in support of Proposition 27, the online sports betting initiative. In a statement, the MLB said the online measure “includes strong integrity provisions” that would help the MLB stay committed to “protecting the integrity of its games.” Meanwhile, two state lawmakers spoke out against Prop 27.
- August 8, 2022 – The No on 26 campaign agreed to remove a quote that inferred the NAACP was against the tribal sports betting proposal on November’s ballot. The NAACP supports the tribal proposition.
- August 2, 2022 – The California-Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP sued to remove the use of the NAACP in ads against the tribal sports betting proposal after a member of the NAACP was quoted in an ad. The NAACP supports the tribal proposition.
When will sports betting launch in California?
No sooner than 2023, and likely later than that. The two initiatives on the November 2022 ballot would allow some form of sports betting in California if passed. But it would likely take many months before the first sportsbook could appear in California.
Gaming industry analysis firm Eilers & Krejcik predicts neither measure has a better than 50% chance of passing. The tremendous war of words and advertising between supporters on both sides is likely to confuse and deter voters from lending their support to either measure.
If both measures pass in November 2022, their passage might not be complimentary. The online measure contains language stating that it is not in conflict with the retail measure and can work in concert with it, but there is no guarantee that the tribal groups will have the same opinion. In fact, they would likely challenge Prop 27 in court if it happens to pass. There is no guarantee the lawsuit would be successful, but the possibility is there.
Will there be online sportsbooks in California?
Possibly, but not soon. The addition of an online sports betting proposal to the November 2022 ballot certainly indicates there’s a chance that online sportsbooks could be in the Golden State’s future. The first step in the process would be the passage of the measure. However, even if that happens, the expected legal challenges to the proposition (coupled with the licensing, rule-making, and other legislative requirements) make it unlikely that online sports betting launches in the state anytime in the next year or so.
Recent California sports betting news
Why is sports betting so complicated in CA?
The outlook for an open market, with both sportsbook apps and retail sports betting across the state, is rather bleak.
The two groups most opposed to one another are tribal groups and cardrooms. The tribes, based upon their understanding of their compacts with the state, believe that the cardrooms’ operations are in violation of the tribes’ exclusivity over gambling in the state. The tribes do have that exclusivity over house-banked games, but cardrooms have danced around the issue by theoretically offering only player-banked games.
As a result, it is hard to find a time when there wasn’t ongoing litigation between the two groups. The tribes, for their part, appear to have adopted the stance that any sort of official acknowledgment of the cardrooms by the state government legitimizes their existence and makes the situation worse.
Another powerful group of stakeholders in the state are the owners of the horse racing tracks. Few states have as many prestigious horse racing facilities as California. Needless to say, none of the track owners want to be left behind if an influx of $200-$500 million in new revenue is going to become available.
The main goal for any state government authorizing sports betting is the generation of tax revenue for the state budget or for specified causes within the budget. The folks in Sacramento want as big a piece of the sports betting pie as they can get, naturally.
California sports betting bills
California’s gambling history stretches back for centuries — longer than California’s status as a state, in fact. However, the state’s history with sports betting is not nearly as lengthy because sports betting was a moot point in almost every area in the US, particularly after PASPA made sports betting illegal — for all intents and purposes — outside of Nevada in 1992.
However, California lawmakers started to believe that the winds might be blowing a different direction when New Jersey managed to gain an audience with the US Supreme Court in its case against PASPA. So, even before PASPA’s eventual demise in 2018, the first California sports betting bill proposal had appeared. Of course, none of these measures has passed and made sports betting legal in California, but here’s a shortlist of the bills that have been put forth to legalize sports betting in the Golden State:
On a side note, the tribal initiative mentioned above is the second attempt of the measure to seek placement on the ballot. The tribes tried to get the same initiative on the 2020 ballot, but the COVID-19 pandemic derailed their signature-gathering mission.
Other attempted ballot initiatives
There were two other prominent sports betting efforts in the state in 2022. Neither of these two measures managed to make the ballot, however:
- 21-0009A1 (aka, the cardroom initiative) — This one came from an obvious source, the state’s cardrooms, which are notably absent as sports betting-eligible locations in the two measures on the ballot. This measure, which did have the support of mayors in several California cities, did not have the financial backing to make significant strides in gathering signatures. State records indicate the measure was killed in April 2022.
- 21-0039A1 (aka, the tribal online initiative) — This proposal, which came from a coalition of tribal interests, aimed to dovetail with the retail initiative already on the ballot. Accordingly, it allowed only the tribes and racetracks to offer online sports betting in California. However, faced with the rival measure from the sportsbooks detailed above, the tribal coalition suspended its pursuit of the measure in May 2022.
Legal sports betting options in California
Aside from betting on horse racing, there are no legal sportsbooks that accept bets from anyone within the state of California.
There are illegal offshore sports betting sites that accept bets from people in California. They do not hold a license from any US jurisdiction to legally accept wagers.
Without being regulated in California, these offshore websites operate no oversight or guarantees for users. The only safe and protected way to bet on sports in the US is to do so with a licensed operator, of which California has none at the moment.
Most popular sports to bet on in California
California has plenty of sports teams that will draw the attention of bettors once they can finally place legal bets. No state in the country has more than California’s 15 teams in the four major professional sports.
NFL betting in California
Even after losing the Raiders to Las Vegas, California has three NFL teams. The Golden State is still home to the Los Angeles Chargers, the Los Angeles Rams, and the San Francisco 49ers. Each team has a long history within the NFL and has experienced varying measures of success. All three have reached the Super Bowl at one time or another, and both the Rams and 49ers have been crowned Super Bowl champions before.
Of course, there is a football team-shaped hole in Oakland that cannot be ignored. Many Californians will be Raiders fans until the day they die, no matter where they play. Nevertheless, there are worse excuses for a trip to Vegas than to see your favorite football team play.
NBA betting in California
As is the case with NFL teams, California is home base for three different teams that play in the NBA. Two of these teams, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors, are two of the most successful teams in league history. In particular, the Lakers are quite possibly the most prestigious NBA team of them all.
The Lakers are one of two teams based in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Clippers often serve as an also-ran to their counterparts in purple and gold, but have their own legions of diehard fans and loyal supporters in their own right. Although the Clips are still trying to find a year where they break through to NBA glory, there’s a good chance they’ll put it all together soon.
MLB betting in California
With a whopping five teams hanging their caps in California, there is no shortage of interest in Major League Baseball in the Golden State. All but one of California’s MLB squads has captured a World Series title at some point, and three of them are some of the most successful teams in league history (albeit in different cities, at times). The MLB teams in California are:
- Los Angeles Angels
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Oakland Athletics
- San Diego Padres
- San Francisco Giants
Unsurprisingly, California teams are often in the postseason mix at the end of every season. Each year brings a new opportunity to bring more hardware home.
NHL betting in California
California has three NHL teams in the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks. The Kings never won a Stanley Cup when they had Wayne Gretzky but got two titles in three seasons in ’11-12 and ’13-14. The Ducks had their magical season in ’06-07 to win their lone Stanley Cup. The Sharks haven’t gotten to kiss the cup, but came oh so close in ’15-16.
NCAA betting in California
No other state has as many teams that compete in the NCAA’s Division I as California. Naturally, there are tons of loyalties and fanbases for each team around the state. Some of the more prominent schools include:
- University of California (Berkeley)
- Cal State Fullerton
- San Diego State University
- University of Southern California
- Stanford University
This list is by no means exhaustive. However, it does bear mention that the lone sports betting initiative guaranteed to be on the ballot specifically prohibits betting on in-state college teams.
California and daily fantasy sports
California is the biggest market for daily fantasy sports with it estimated that 120,000 participants are making more than $200 million in entry fees each year. It was one of the first states to propose regulation of DFS in September of 2015 — even before the DraftKings data leak that spurred governmental and media scrutiny.
Assemblyman Adam Gray tried multiple attempts to pass legislation to legalize and regulate DFS. However, each effort failed against opposition from the gambling stakeholders in California.
Even though the state chooses thus far not to regulate and tax the industry, major DFS sites such as DraftKings, FanDuel, Yahoo, and Fantasy Draft operate in California.
Is horse racing legal in California?
California has one of the biggest horse racing industries in the United States. The state features four tracks with live racing:
- Santa Anita Park
- Del Mar Racetrack
- Golden Gate Fields
- Los Alamitos Race Course
Santa Anita, located in Los Angeles County, often hosts the Breeders’ Cup, considered part of the unofficial Grand Slam of racing following the Triple Crown. It also hosts the Santa Anita Handicap and the Santa Anita Derby.
There are also fairs in Northern California with summer racing, and the Cal Expo offers harness racing.
Legal pari-mutuel wagering overseen by the California Horse Racing Board began in California in 1933. Racetracks have affiliated off-track betting parlors around the state. The minimum age for parimutuel betting in California is 18.
With several tracks having closed in the past decade, horse racing could use a boost of interest from being able to have sports betting at their tracks. The industry is included in the legislative and tribal initiatives being considered in 2020, but only the legislative plan allows racetracks to branch out to have sports wagering online and at satellite facilities.
California sports betting timeline
The events of the first half of 2022 favored the tribal groups in the state. A lawsuit by card room interests to challenge the legality of the retail sports betting initiative failed to gain an audience with the California Supreme Court in February, and a refiling of the same suit in March led to its dismissal in Los Angeles Superior Court in April.
April also saw the end of efforts for sports betting at card rooms in California. The tribes then declined to pursue passage of their own online sports betting measure in May, opting instead to fight against the sportsbook-backed proposal (Proposition 27).
However, the tribes were unable to stop the online measure’s momentum, and it gained access to the ballot in June when the secretary of state certified more than 1 million signatures on the petition. Thus, Californians are set to vote on two separate sports betting propositions in November.
Although the counties needed an extension for signature verification themselves, they completed the task in May. In the end, the counties were able to certify just over 1 million signatures as valid. Thanks to a margin of roughly 65,000 signers on the tribes’ petition, California voters will have their first opportunity to vote on sports betting in November 2022.
A few months after the tribal measure gained its access to the ballot, two other proposals appeared on the scene in the Golden State. The two initiatives offered radically different options for the structure of a potential sports betting industry in California. Notably, both of them involved concepts for online sports betting. However, the two measures diverged rapidly from one another and from the tribal initiative after that point.
Both initiatives began their own signature campaigns in the fall of 2021. However, both of them faced substantial difficulties in joining the tribal initiative on the ballot in 2022. The card room measure was a non-starter for the tribes, which fundamentally opposed both the card rooms’ receipt of sports betting licenses and, for that matter, the existence of the card rooms themselves. The operator measure had its own challenges to meet after a November 2021 poll indicated that voters did not look favorably upon online sports betting.
Both initiatives have until mid-2022 to collect their required number of verified signatures to make the ballot in earnest.
In January, Sen. Bill Dodd and Assemblyman Adam Gray finally held an informational hearing on CA sports betting in the Joint Governmental Organization Committee. It didn’t have much in the way of sparks as the tribes and cardrooms bit their tongues and observed.
Their next hearing would more than make up for it. First, to set the table for the May hearing, you must know that the coronavirus that affected the whole world also may have changed the course of sports betting in California.
At the same time, legislators saw an opening to renew legislative efforts with California facing a $54 billion budget deficit. Without holding discussions with tribal leaders, Dodd and Gray filled out their bills with implementation language.
The amendments authorized retail and online CA sports betting for tribal casinos and racetracks. Cardrooms were not given sports betting but were offered legal clarity on the games currently offered at their facilities.
Back to that hearing in the Senate Governmental Organization Committee, tribal leaders vehemently opposed the measure and said they will not compromise on their position on the legality of the games played at cardrooms. The card clubs and representatives of the regions they support all offered their support.
SCA 6 advanced through the committee by a 9-3 vote. Dodd pledged that there will be discussions with tribes and changes to address some of their concerns before the bill is brought up on the Senate floor.
The bill will need to pass by a two-thirds vote in the Senate and the House before summer break on June 19. There is a June 25 deadline for measures to make the ballot.
Meanwhile, a tribal coalition is not giving up on their initiative and plans to file a lawsuit to receive more time to submit signatures.
Gray had tried to get ahead of the overturn of PASPA by introducing the constitutional amendment in 2017. However, tribal interests weren’t willing to consider the matter until this year.
Although the bills merely included a ballot question to legalize sports betting in California, the lawmakers made clear their intent to begin discussions with industry stakeholders to fill out the details of how CA sports betting would be conducted.
Right before they planned to hold a hearing on the topic, tribes decided not to come to the table and instead introduced their own ballot initiative. The tribal initiative sought voter approval for legalizing sports betting in a limited fashion only at tribal casinos and horse racing tracks.
Dodd told LSR that he believed the state needed a more inclusive measure that included online sports betting in California.
California sports betting FAQ
Is sports betting legal in California?
No. Right now, there are no legal options for sports betting in California. However, two different initiatives have gained access to the November 2022 ballot and will be voted on by California residents on Nov. 8, 2022.
Who would oversee sports betting in California?
The Bureau of Gambling Control within the California Department of Justice. Both measures on the ballot identify this agency as the preferred regulator.
What is the legal gambling age in California?
The legal gambling age in California is 21. While it is true that there are some locations around the Golden State that only require players to be 18 — notably, racetracks and tribal casinos that do not serve alcohol — all initiatives state unequivocally that California sports bettors will have to be over the age of 21 to participate.
Will mobile CA sports betting be allowed?
Only if Proposition 27 passes. Prop 27 is an online sports betting measure and would allow for wagering on any mobile device or computer. Proposition 26 restricts online wagering and passage of only Prop 26 would keep sports betting a retail-only activity.
There are some sports betting websites that say they accept bets from the United States. Are those legal options?
No. All US sportsbooks are licensed at the state level. Any website that purports to take wagers from anywhere in the United States is operating illegally. These sites offer no protection to those who bet on them.
How many casinos are in California?
California is home to 66 tribal casinos, which are owned by 63 of the federally-recognized tribes in the state. There are more than 100 tribes in California that are eligible to negotiate gaming compacts, and 75 of them have done so, according to state records. Some of the more prominent tribal gaming venues in the state include Ya’amava Casino Resort (formerly San Manuel Casino), Pechanga Resort Casino, Viejas Casino & Resort, and Cache Creek Casino Resort.