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California Sports Betting

Editor’s note: As of Jan. 12, 2021

California is golden when it comes to professional sports teams having the most in the American “Big 4” (NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL) of any other state in the nation with 16, soon to be 15 in the when the NFL’s Oakland Raiders make the move to Las Vegas for the 2020 season.

What’s not as sunny are the obstacles the state needs to overcome to before bettors can wager on the smorgasbord of collegiate and professional teams that play there.

Among the issues state officials have to contend with is a likely referendum to change California’s Constitution to allow betting and the fact that all gaming is operated by Native American tribes, who are cool to the idea of sports betting.

As of this writing, Assemblyman Adam Gray and Senator Bill Dodd have, for the second year in a row, proposed a sports betting bill. The pair’s previous bill didn’t move out of committee last year.

This latest proposal comes after a failed effort to gather signatures to get a referendum on the ballot. This effort would need two-thirds support from the state legislature before voters get to pass/fail the constitutional change on the 2020 ballot.

As for negotiating with the tribes, the courts may have provided an avenue to bring betting to the state.

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In June 2019, three California gaming tribes lost an effort to stop casino-style games from being played in the state’s cardrooms. Those in support of having sports betting in California say this crack may open the door to allow sports wagers and online poker down the road.

The Action Network, which analyzes sports betting in the U.S, calls Gray and Dodd’s legislation a long shot but “at least will get the conversation started again in the Golden State.”

The California Nations Indian Gaming Association has suggested lawmakers “proceed with caution” regarding sports betting legislation. The group said they would be willing to have a “legitimate discussion” regarding betting when the cardrooms end what they deem as “illegal practices.”

Ahead of the state’s coalition of card clubs, Kyle Kirkland, said the California Gaming Association looks “forward to working collaboratively with (tribes) as we learn more about the proposed constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

Is sports betting currently legal in the state?


What about Horse Racing?

Betting on horse racing is not counted as sports betting so you are able to legally place online bets and you can do this in the state with TVG, Bet America and Twinspires. 

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When could California start accepting bets?

In a September 2019 report done by the Action Network that focuses on the status of sports betting in the U.S., it concluded that the soonest betting could start sometime in 2021 -- and that is being very optimistic.

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