- Sports Betting remains illegal with no end to the impasse in sight.
- However, expect sports betting to become legalized in 2021, given how much is at stake.
- Offshore sports betting at online sites is legal and accepted.
Welcome to your California Betting and Gambling Guide! We provide you with the current gambling environment, discuss the difficulties of legalizing sports betting in California, what will it take to become legalized and where to play in the mean time.
If you are looking to join in on the sports betting action then read on!
Top 3 California Sportsbook Sites
California is the most affluent state in the US. Demographics indicate a state with a very high population of over 40 million with income earnings well above the US average. This translates to a large total disposable income concentrated in one US State.
Thus, gambling in California is an extremely large market, and everyone wants a piece of it. If they already have a piece of it, they want to either grow it or at the very least protect it.
Below is a breakdown of gambling turnover in the Year 2019 by gaming type in California. (Note: the amounts are in the US $ millions).
|Native American Casinos||96,630|
|(*) Sports Betting – offshore online||198|
|Casino – offshore online||179|
|Horse – onshore online||148|
|Poker – offshore online||21|
|Bingo/Other – offshore online||17|
(*) Online sports betting by offshore sports books are permitted. The current laws do not clearly declare offshore gambling as illegal and therefore you have offshore gambling for sports betting, casino games, poker and bingo.
With a total of $118 billion wagered on all forms of gambling in California, this will give you an understanding of why there is an enormous amount of self interest in the legalization and regulation of sports betting.
The amount wagered on offshore online sports books was $198 million.
In the scheme of things, this is a drop in the ocean when compared to the revenue pulled in by the native American casinos and Card Rooms.
California Online Sports Betting
In the previous gambling turnover table, we referred to the online sports betting turnover for 2019 was $198 million.
Not many sports bettors are aware, that offshore online sportsbooks accept US players.
Is this illegal?
It is a gray area. The current state laws do not clearly articulate whether gambling offshore online is illegal or not. Therefore, you will find many online sportsbooks (and online casinos) accepting US players from states that have ambiguous gambling laws – California is one of those states.
Is it dangerous?
There are several aspects to this question.
Firstly, will you get caught or fined? I highly doubt it. Till this day, there has been no precedence of anyone being charged with breaking the law for playing at offshore online sports betting books or offshore online casinos.
Secondly, are offshore sports betting books trustworthy and reliable? Very much so. They have been operating in the market for many years and sports betting is a clear cut outcome (when compared to online casino games). It’s therefore extremely difficult to challenge an outcome of a sports bet.
The alternative to online sports betting is to head out to your neighboring states of Nevada and Oregon. You will find that both these states offer legal sports betting.
California Gambling Stakeholders
Let’s analyze the key stakeholders who want to influence the outcome of legalizing sports betting in California.
In summary they are:
- Native American Casino Operators
- Card Room Operators
- The State Representatives who represent the people of California
Native American Casinos
In the year 2019, Native American Casinos generated a turnover of approximately $97 billion! This is a gigantic amount. Now think of how large the sports betting profits would be if sports bets were to be isolated to in-person and on-site at a native American casino. Not only would they rake in the sports betting profits, but the patronage of sports bettors would also create profits in hospitality, accommodation and other down stream opportunities.
As a result, 18 native American tribes have come together and have put forward sports gambling laws with the following conditions:
- Sport bets are only allowed to be placed at a native American casino (this excludes Card Room operators)
- Online and mobile sports betting not to be permitted.
- native American casinos have right of passage to enforce illegal sports betting operators to shutdown, should the California Gambling Commission not enforce the rule of law.
In essence, native American casinos want to monopolize the sports betting market for themselves.
To circumvent discussions that would normally take place through the House of Representatives and the Senate, the 18 tribes have applied for the amendment of the state constitution (the law of gambling) through a ballot. A ballot is a direct referendum from the people of California.
Why have the native American tribes taken this approach?
They argue that a strong enforced regulatory and compliance environment is necessary. And the best environment to achieve this, is only through in-person and on-site sports betting at a native American casino.
They argue that should Card Rooms be permitted to accept sport bets, this will open the door to illegal activity that cannot be monitored or controlled. Furthermore, they believe online and mobile sports betting will also increase illegal activity.
Last year in 2019, discussions with State Representative allegedly did not proceed in a amicable manner, thus, the native American cohort of tribes have circumvented the State to proceed with a direct ballot to occur towards the end of 2020. This is potentially a very risky move, as it will require a strong marketing campaign that will convince the public to approve of their terms and conditions.
Naturally this has caused blood to boil with Card Room Operators and the State Representatives.
Card Room Operators
Card Room Operators generated a turnover of approximately $10 billion in 2019. Though no where near as much as the native American casino turnover, it is still a significant amount.
Of course, Card Room Operators want the ability to apply for a sports betting license and to run a sports book.
Their argument is that the people of California have the right to freely access sports betting more easily than being restricted to a native American Casino.
They also argue that they are part of the gambling industry and they should have the equal opportunity to offer sports betting.
California State Representatives
Though the State does not take an gambling turnover directly, their position is in regards to the tax revenue produced by gambling. The higher the gambling proceeds flowing through regulated and legal channels, the higher the tax revenue raised for the State coffers.
Therefore, the State would like to see online and mobile sports betting apps legalized and freely available to the people of California.
Their argument for this is to remove illegal gambling activity as much as possible. Without online and mobile sports betting apps, there assumption is that black market sports betting will grow.
Where to from here?
Jan 15, 2020 discussions in the State were held on how to progress further with the legalization of sports betting. These discussions excluded native American tribes and Card Room Operators to allow for a “less heated” debate. The purpose of the discussions was more educational for the State, and hence a list of experts and consultants in the gambling industry were invited to address the State.
From here, it is anyone’s guess as to what are next steps.
Sports Gambling Laws and Bills in California
In July 2017, the member of the Assembly Adam Gray prepared for the overturning of the PASPA by proposing an amendment to state laws to consider the legalization of sports betting.
During 2019 bills were introduced to consider legalization of sports betting. Discussion between key stakeholder were acrimonious, and none were passed.
January 2020 further discussions are to take place in the State. Accordingly, native American casino representatives have by pass the Senate and House and have file for a direct vote via a ballot with the public for November 2020.
Overview of California Sports Bets
Californians are blessed with high profile local sporting teams. Arguably the most famous is the LA Lakers with their super stars of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. But the Golden State Warriors are a very close second with super stars Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. NFL football San Francisco 49ers are probably the most popular football team.
Sports Betting NBA
Golden State Warriors
Since the arrival of new owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, and hiring of General Manager Bob Myers, Golden State the perennial cellar dwellers have risen like a phoenix up the ladder table to become the best team of the decade.
Though they come in at third (behind Spurs and Thunder) for the win loss ratio for years 2010 to 2019, they very much dominated from 2014 to 2019.
- Spurs – 68.7% (553-252)
- Thunder – 63.9% (514-290)
- Warriors – 62.6% (505-302)
The core players of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green and the onboarding of Steve Kerr as the coach created 5 years of domination.
Of the five years, the Warriors faced the Cavaliers in three consecutive NBA Championship finals. Their last trip to the Finals was against the Kawhi Leonard led Raptors, in which they lost 4-2. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson both suffered severe injuries during the Finals, setting the scene for a challenging start to the decade. To add further hardship, Steph Curry at the start of the 2019/2020 season also suffered an injury which has seen him miss several months.
Though not a team that would appear to tank, now is the perfect opportunity for the Warriors to do so. Lacking fire power, the Warriors just don’t have what it takes to compete against even the mediocre teams. Betting on the Warriors to lose, would appear to be the safe bet, but the Warriors have a lot of pride. When Curry returns, they should become more competitive and a few upsets may be strung together.
The LA Lakers are back to being the power house team that they are expected to be. LeBron James had his worst year on any team last season, surrounded by inexperienced youth and no second star player that he can rely upon. This year we see the addition of Anthony Davis, making the LA Lakers are two superstar combo that opposing teams cannot beat.
Both James and Davis are in the running for MVP honors. The betting odds show James just above Davis, with the hot favorite being Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Lakers have their two man combo, and so do the Clippers. Kwahi Leonard and Paul George are a force to be reckoned with. The MVP from last season, Leonard brings power, basketball IQ, calm and control to the Clippers. Leonard is the master of the pull up mid range shot, a defensive machine, and can hit the clutch shot when needed. Paul George isn’t as decorated as Leonard with awards, but there is no doubt George is no slouch. The Batman and Robin combo of Leonard and George, set the Clippers as favorites at the start of the season.
In my opinion, I rank the Lakers higher in the odds to win the Championship (assuming no injuries), but the Clippers are not far behind.
The Sacramento Kings had the opportunity to choose Luka Doncic, but they didn’t. The lowest ranked of the NBA teams in California they needed all the firepower they could get, but selected poorly in the 2018/2019 draft selection. Luka Doncic has gone on to be in contention for MVP honours in only his second year in the league and the young age of 19, whilst the King’s selection of Marvin Bagley III has yet to shine because of injuries.
Betting on the Sacramento Kings is difficult. They play with inconsistency, at times gelling together and defeating higher ranked teams, but also losing against lower ranked teams. Thus, bet with caution on Sacramento Kings games.
Sports Betting NFL
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams is the third most valuable team in the league, behind the Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots. Their value has increased tremendously after relocating to LA, and after making it to the Super Bowl LIII where they lost to the New England Patriots.
The Rams are a great team to bet on for the win. They have shown consistency over the past seasons, and often hit the ground running during early season games. If you are looking for the value bet, then try and find the game where they may an off night, and bet against them.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers didn’t earn any more fans when they relocated from San Diego back to LA. Many fans were disappointed, and some were just really pissed off. Not the most popular of teams in California, they have a very loyal fan base San Diego, so moving away from their loyal fan base set the flames of anger. Controversially it’s unclear who wanted the team to move from San Diego to LA with both owners and the NFL organization casting the blame on each other. There has been rumors that the team would move back, however, this seems highly unlikely.
As you can imagine attendance has fallen, and interest in the team is waning. BUT, this probably makes betting on Charger games very interesting. If you are able to garner better knowledge of Charger game odds, you may be able to gain the upper hand.
Current not a great team (understatement of the year). Disorganized, dysfunctional, in team fighting, what else can say to describe their last season? Avoid betting on the Oakland Raiders to win any time soon. They can win the easy beat games, but that’s about it.
San Francisco 49ers
Wow. Where did they come from? Having an outstanding season, I’m not sure many would have picked them to come this far – the Super Bowl Championship!
Not many seasons ago the 49ers were in a disarray, suffering losses to mid level teams. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t living up to their history of being winners.
Based on a long list of Hall of Famers – Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott and Jerry Rice – and the five Super Bowl Championships that they contributed to, the 49ers have built a strong fan base, valuing the team at just over $3 billion according to Forbes.
Will the 49ers win another Super Bowl Championship this year? Place your bets!
Sports Betting MLB
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers have one of the largest fanbases of any baseball team in the world. Sharing ownership among well known celebrities such as Magic Johnson, Tiger Woods, Shia LeBeouf and Larry King, you will often see autographs being signed not only by players but owners as well.
Famous for the 2002 season from which the term “Moneyball” was coined. General Manager, Billy Beane, built a team that had no super stars that achieved the longest winning streak of 20 consecutive games. How he achieved this was written in a book called Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis.
The book describes how data and analytics supported what seemed to be obscure and irrational player trades early season.
The moneyball tactics continue to this day, with a very respectable 97 win season for 2019. Ending with a disappointing season loss resulting in early playoff exit.
Next season the Oakland A’s have high hopes of performing better. Betting on the Oakland A’s coming out of the blocks early in the season is a fairly good bet. Though their moneyball tactics are well known and documented, they continue to perform well and exceed expectations.
San Diego Padres
Though the San Diego Padres suffered their fourth consecutive season of losses over 90 games, their ninth straight season with a losing record and missed the playoffs for the thirteenth straight season their popularity has rises! I’m not sure why, but that’s great for the team. Perhaps they don’t need to string up wins to keep the fans happy?
In preparation for the following season, the San Diego Padres have fired their coach Andy Green who has overseen the the past three seasons of losses. Good move!
Will a change in coach change their fortunes for the upcoming season? Well it can’t get any worse.
San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants began the 2019 season slow out of the blocks, so slow that they were dead last after the first quarter of the season had been completed. But they turned it around with a string of wins that surprised many. The Giants have a loyal fan base, and hopes were high as the season came to a close, however they fizzled out with a losing streak to end the season with a 77-85 record.
Bet on them with caution!
Overview of California Sports Bars
California has plenty of sports bars that have quality sport viewing screens, cold ice beer and easy to eat comfort food. We cannot cover them all, but provide a review of the most popular ones for you.
Sports Bars in California
5630 W Manchester Ave, Los Angeles, California
This bar can get busy really quick, especially when it’s game time. It may be slow when you get there, but best to save yourself your seat and table, or you will be waiting for a long time after the crowd rolls in. Can be a little small if a massive crowd turns up. There are no pool tables, if that is what you’re looking for. But good viewing screens to watch all your favorite sports – they will show all the big games, fights and events. Great hip hop music, DJ or live music for that really cool atmosphere. Drinks are usually above $6, so yes it is at the pricier end of town. There is security at the front door, and they will ask for ID and check personal belongings. This isn’t a children friendly sports bar, so I wouldn’t bring young families. There is no cover charge, and busy period is always around 6pm to 12am everyday.
1835 S Coast Hwy, Oceanside, California
Located conveniently in the heart of Oceanside, this place’s rave are the burgers. You’ve got to try the burgers! Massive and delicious. They serve mostly Mexican food, so if you don’t like Mexican then this may not be place for you. But the burgers will do it!
They support the local brewers with a wide variety of craft beer. If you’re looking for more of the big branded beer, then you might be disappointed. All draft beers are $6, which is not so cheap, but not so expensive either.
3221 Folsom Blvd, Sacramento, California
This is THE sports bar for Steelers fans. This place rocks like a crazy Steelers family. If you walk in and declare you are a Steeler you will be part of the family. If you’re not a fan, that’s ok too, but keep quiet. 🙂
The sports bar has heaps of viewing screens with a lot of the local micro breweries well represented in their selection of beers. The food is well priced, not overly expensive. Naturally, can become a little rowdy with the cheering, so not the place to be if you want to watch a game quietly.
3757 Riverside Dr A, Chino, California
This family owned sports bar is super friendly. It’s the place to be to hang out, watch your favorite team and drink crisp craft beer and gourmet pizza. The food quality is exemplary. The atmosphere is wonderful, and seems to be the place where the locals hang out. Really cool sports bar to visit.
Horse Racing and Betting
Horse race betting accounts for over $3 billion of bets wagered in California in 2019. The industry is formidable in California, unlike other US states which are seeing a decrease in popularity. In California you will be able to find 4 race tracks.
Read the reviews and you will gain an understanding as to why horse racing and betting is doing well in this state.
Del Mar Race Track
2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd, Del Mar, California
This is where the “surf meets the turf”. A spectacular race track, that not only holds races, but concerts and other performances as well. The betting is fun and exciting as you stand close to the rails watching the horses 🐎 gallop by. A lot of fun to be had with the betting as well! If you manage to get into the private club rooms, even better. You will be served with unlimited drink and food. On-site parking is convenient and is cheap at only $10 for the day.
The State owns the Del Mar Race track and is governed by the 22nd District Agricultural Association. The most popular event that is held at the Del Mar tracks is the Pacific Classic Stakes with a prize pool of $1 million. This track includes both an oval dirt track and a 7 furlong course.
Santa Anita Park
285 W Huntington Dr, Arcadia, California
A wonderful place for chillaxing, fine dining and of course the betting and racing. Many great events to be had such as the open days which is family fun. The sandwichs on field are the best, give them a try. The staff are extremely welcoming and provide you with the best service with a smile.
Golden Gate Fields
1100 Eastshore Hwy, Berkeley, California
One of the best maintained race tracks in the state. Stunning views across the track with the backdrop of the water. Convenient parking and excellent service by staff. The Turf Club buffet is fantastic and priced reasonably.
Los Alamitos Race Track
4961 Katella Ave, Cypress, California
Neat and tidy like a pin. The viewing stands, track, landscape excellently maintained and kept, not a leaf out of place. The staff are super friendly and go above and beyond to make your day. Night races are held here, and they offer a different kind of excitement to the usual day meets. Enjoy dinner outdoor overlooking the finish line, the best experience to be had.
Slot Machines in California
You will find slot machines available at all the native American casinos in California. They range from the most sophisticated with smart phone chargers, leather seats, auto reserve and service callers, to the traditional classic plain vanilla one arm bandits reels.
Slot Machine Payout Ratios
Slot machines can be programmed to be configured at specific payout ratios. Normally it will be the software developer who would work with the casino in setting the ratio. These ratios typically remain fixed for periods of time rather than constantly changed on a daily basis. Naturally players will search for the best payout ratios of for slot machines to give them the best advantage of winning the prized jackpot, and as a California slots players you may be asking so which casino is the best to play at. Unfortunately, native American casinos are not required by law to disclose to the public their payout ratios, and therefore it is unknown which casinos have the best payouts. In other states, where casinos are operated commercially and privately, the law will require payout ratio disclosure to the public. But in California there are no private commercial casinos.
Slot Machine Manufacturers
The are many slot machine manufacturers around the world, the largest being the Ainsworth Game Technology company which is listed on the Australian stock exchange. Originally family and privately owned by the Ainsworths, they have grown significantly expanding out of Australia to targeting the US market which of course includes the California market. As a result you will find many slot machines available manufactured by Ainsworth Game Technology.
Owning a Slot Machine
Owning a slot machine is permitted for private use only if the following conditions are met.
Firstly, the slot machine must be at least 25 years or older. The intention is that slot machines are to be for collectors, i.e. as a hobby, and therefore a new slot machine should not be considered as a collector’s item.
Secondly, the slot machine cannot be used for gambling purposes for the owner to profit from. Should it be used in the form of profiteering through gambling, fines may be imposed.
- Unlike other US States which have jumped out of the blocks to legalize sports betting, California languishes behind. Mired in acrimonious debate between native American tribes, Card Room Operators and the State, sports betting legalization has been a polarizing talking point.
- Resolving differences between the many stakeholders presents a difficult challenge with currently no resolution in sight.
- Native American Tribes are attempting to by-pass the Assembly, via going direct to the voters to approve exclusivity of operating sports books in California.
- Card Room Operators are lobbying for sports betting law to NOT be exclusive and allow them to operate a sports book.
- State Senators want to broaden sports betting laws to include online and mobile apps.
When will sports betting be legal in California?
Sports betting will not be legalized until 2021 at its earliest.