California Sports Betting

Being the most populated state in the country, California is the best place for revenue streams from land-based and online sports betting. Boasting nearly 40 million people and some of the top sports teams in the world, many people wonder why it is not the leading state in sports betting. As a way to easily generate millions of dollars in revenue, there is little to explain why lawmakers are so slow to propose a bill before the Senate to permit legal sports betting in California.

  • 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.

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California Gambling

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).

GAMING2019 ($m)
Native American Casinos       96,630
Card Rooms       10,208
Lottery         7,537
Horse          3,082
(*) 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.


Is Online Sports Betting Legal in California?

Online sports betting in the state of California is currently illegal, with little to indicate that will change anytime soon. Apart from bets on horse races and daily fantasy sports, there are no other online betting options available within the state.

Despite having a big population demanding sports betting, states were unable to pass laws to open up the sports betting market due to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). When it was finally struck down and considered unconstitutional in 2018, this opened up the way for states to finally legalize and regulate sports betting, though no attempt was yet made by lawmakers.

Until the day arrives when players are finally able to participate in online sports gambling, many Californians choose to join offshore online sports betting sites instead. Since state laws prohibit players from accessing online sportsbooks within the country, there is virtually no information about offshore sites, leaving lots of players feeling like they are in limbo. This gray region in the law has many accepting the fact that offshore sites are permitted, at least for the time being.

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:

  1. Native American Casino Operators
  2. Card Room Operators
  3. 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.


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.

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

Game Sports Bar Restaurant and Lounge

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.

PCH Sports Bar

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.

Cheaters Sports Bar

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.

Bleachers Sports Bar Grill & Pizzeria

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.


The Difference Between Sports Betting and Daily Fantasy Sports

California currently allows daily fantasy sports (DFS) but has kept traditional sports betting illegal. This confuses a lot of people since both seem very similar, yet many argue that DFS is more a game of skill, whereas sports betting is more a game of chance.

Both DFS and sports betting require players to consider teams and game conditions to make an informed decision. They also have a good variety of bets that have the potential to win anything from a few dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. The main difference between the two is that DFS has players play against each other, while sports betting is generally players against the oddsmaker.

As it stands, both sports betting and DFS seems to fall into a similar category of skill and chance, making more and more people demand lawmakers to propose a sports betting bill to give players more variety in their gambling entertainment.

Finding Good Online Sports Betting Sites

Anyone new to online sports betting might feel nervous about betting real money online, especially with thousands of options available out there. To get the best start, there are a few things that all players should consider before registering to an online sportsbook:

Choose a Site with a Good Reputation

A quick search online will instantly give thousands of sports betting site options that cater to players in the US. As much as everyone would love to trust every result online, the sad reality is there are scam sites that target online gambling sites.

To find the best online sports betting site with a trusted name behind it, check out review sites and sportsbook ratings to get a better idea of the top sites. All of the popular sites have a lot of competition to keep up with, and that makes them the best choice for a fun experience with gambling entertainment. Most reviewers are real players who are more than happy to go into detail about their experience on a site, often giving specific recounts of the sports variety, betting options, bonuses, and even customer support.

Check Out the Payment Options

To participate in sports betting online, all players will be required to deposit money into their player accounts to get started. The same banking options will also be offered to process winnings.

Players from the US should carefully look at the deposit and withdrawal options to see what kind of options are available. Players should always choose a banking type they are familiar with and trust.

The majority of online offshore sports betting sites will accept wire transfers, major credit cards like Visa and MasterCard, popular prepaid cards, and cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. If a preferred banking option is not listed on the site, customer support can provide more information about banking on the site. 

Quality Support When You Need It

At one point or another, players will need help from customer support. It might be for placing a bet, account problems, money transfer issues, promotion support, or general information about upcoming tournaments. Whatever the reason, knowing that customer support will be there to help when needed is an important factor in overall site experience.

Before registering to a site, take a quick look at the customer support options available. Some sites will have 24-hour live chat, while others will have standard support hours. Also, look at the number of ways support can be contacted to see if any are convenient.

In general, support can be reached with live chat, email, phone number, or online support form. Also, teams will often aim to reply within 24-hours, though some sites could take longer depending on busy times. To test a site’s support team, send a simple inquiry, and wait for a reply. This will give a good idea of how quickly and efficiently they offer support.

For general site and betting knowledge, most sportsbook sites will also have a decent help section that is filled with useful information and tutorials. This section helps new members navigate the site, learn how to place different bets, and get answers to frequently asked questions from previous players.

Site Security Features

Sports betting sites take security seriously to keep players and their private information safe. In order to become a member of the site, new players will have to go through a registration process that requires photo I.D. and banking information (for deposits and withdrawals). This information is needed to ensure all players are of legal age to place real money bets and to prevent fraud. Every account is manually assessed and approved by site administrators, which generally takes anywhere between 24 and 48 hours.

During this account processing time, players are unable to place real money bets, but they can participate in fun bets that do not use real money (a great way to see what the site offers without investing any money). 

The top sites will have several levels of security that begins with SSL encryption and will often have third party security sites to keep information safe. There will also be security measures in place to ensure all games (and betting processes) are fair.

Betting Basics

Players new to sports betting should become familiar with the basic bets that all land-based and online sportsbooks will have available. At first, the sheer number of betting options will make anyone feel confused and intimidated, but as long as they recognize the most common bets, it will be easy to have a good time without worrying about making a mistake.

As with anything new, players should stick to what they know most. Choosing to focus on sports that are more familiar will instantly give players a better chance at winning a bet than trying to bet on something totally new.

Common Sports Found in Online Sportsbooks

  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • Soccer
  • eSports
  • College Football
  • Mixed Martial Arts
  • Major League Baseball
  • Canadian Football League
  • National Hockey League
  • National Amateur Sports
  • National Football League
  • National Basketball Association

Most sports betting sites will have a bigger collection of options available, with some choices being a great challenge for more experienced betters since they are uncommon sports in the US.

Moneyline

Moneyline is the easiest wager to understand, that anyone new to sports betting can easily get the hang of it in seconds. Players place a wager on the person or team they believe will win a specific game or tournament.

Point Spread

Players place a wager on the team they believe will win or lose within a specific number range of points. This range of points is decided by oddsmakers who work for the sportsbooks.

Over-under

Players place a wager on whether the final goals/runs will be over the sportsbook’s number for the total goals/runs in a specific game. Essentially, players choose if the result will be over or under the oddsmaker’s numbers.

Futures

Players place a wager on the person or team that they believe will be the ultimate winner of a particular tournament or competition. This type of wager (as the name suggests) is made before the game or event begins.

Parlay

Players place a wager on several selections from different games, all under one official bet. Selections can be anything between 2 and 12+, and the more selections there are, the more difficult it is to win the bet.

Summary

  • 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.

FAQ

When will sports betting be legal in California?

Sports betting will not be legalized until 2021 at its earliest.


California Bordering States

  • Arizona – illegal but getting there.
  • Nevada – is legal, so head out there if you want to place a sports bet.
  • Oregon – is legal, so head out there if you want to place a sports bet.