California Sports Betting

By Jake Patel on

California offers a massive choice of gambling products to visitors and residents alike. From tribal gambling establishments to race tracks, California boasts a wide selection of gambling options. Since the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), the legalisation of sports betting in California has been a hot topic.

Is it Legal to Bet on Sports in California?

No, at present it’s illegal to bet on sports in California, however, state lawmakers are taking steps to introduce sports betting legislation relatively soon. In the meantime sports bettors are able to bet on daily fantasy sports sites, of which several are already legal in the state.

There have been many efforts to legalize sports betting in California, with each step more positively accepted than the last. Looking forward, there’s set to be a ballot vote in November of this year, with California voters being allowed a say in the possible type of sports betting that’s legalized within the state. 

Brandt Iden
Head of Government Affairs, Sportradar

Expert Insight: The CA Legalization Bills

“It’s going to be a massive market. With 40-million-plus people in that state, and now we have two ballot initiatives that we know will likely be on the ballot. We’ll have a mobile initiative and a retail initiative. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this will be the largest ballot initiative ever. And by that I mean, cumulative amount of money spent, for and against on both sides. I think the amount of money spent on this initiative will be massive.”

Previously, in July 2017, Assembly member Adam Gray introduced ACA-18, an amendment to the constitution to allow sports betting. The amendment, Gray suggested, would allow the state “to permit sports wagering only if a change in federal law occurs”. After it was announced that PASPA had been repealed, Gray spoke again on the matter, making it clear that he wanted to amend the constitution to allow sports betting.

Another group, Californians for Sports Betting, has also made legislative efforts to legalize sports betting in the state. In June 2018, the group filed a ballot initiative to legalize California sports betting, which was not considered until the 2020 state election. 

Throughout consultation, the area that the state government really needed to focus on was that of the compacts it holds with tribal gambling communities. Sports betting is categorized as a class III gambling activity, however the tribal gaming compacts grant the tribal communities exclusive rights to offer class III gambling options in their establishments. If the state were to legalize sports betting it would essentially make the compacts redundant and cause tensions between state government and tribal communities. As a result of this, there is still a lot for the government to consider before fully entering the sports betting market.

Brandt Iden
Head of Government Affairs, Sportradar

Expert Insight: CA Looking to other States

“I do think that (regular legalization elsewhere in the U.S.) will help in California. Voters will look at it and say, ‘Look, there are 30-plus other states, and 35 jurisdictions with Puerto and D.C., that have done this.’ It’s a more established market now four years into this. I think that does bring a level of comfort to voters. People can say, OK, we’re recognizing people with addiction. We’re recognizing that the industry is focusing on responsible gaming. We’re recognizing that this is a boon to the bottom line dollars of the states.”

What Sports Will I be Able to Bet on?

There isn’t yet any clear confirmation as to the sports that will be available on California sports betting sites. Nevertheless, we predict the sports betting proposal will follow the trends of other legalized states and incorporate the top sporting events into California sports betting offerings. If the state takes the same route as Nevada and New Jersey US sportsbooks, it is likely that legislation will permit wagers on all professional sports teams and collegiate events, with the exception of events featuring Californian college teams. This will include top sports such as the NBA, Major League baseball, NFL, NHL, and horse racing.

Basketball

There are currently four NBA basketball franchises based in California, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Golden State Warriors, and the Sacramento Kings. Of these, the Lakers are the most well-known, having won 17 NBA titles, tying in the top spot with the Boston Celtics for the most Championship wins of any NBA team. Nevertheless, with this many teams to back, sports bettors are set to have a wide and varied choice once the sports betting market is legalized.

Baseball

Again, California sports teams are busy in the baseball leagues. This time with five franchises, including the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, and the San Francisco Giants. The Oakland Athletics, or “A’s” as they’re more commonly known, have won nine World Series championships, with the Dodgers being the most recent Californian winners, taking the title in 2020.

American Football

There are three football teams in California, namely the San Francisco 49ers, the Los Angeles Chargers, and the Los Angeles Rams. Probably the most famous team in California, the 49ers began the 2020 season with hopes of becoming Super Bowl champions, having won it five times in the team’s history. However, due to injuries and a more challenging season than predicted, it wasn’t to be. There are plenty of rivalries amongst NFL teams, none more so than between the 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks which has been bubbling away for the past ten years. However, with the Rams’ improved class, they are slowly taking over from the Seahawks as the 49ers main rivals, meaning some great sports betting opportunities between two of the state’s main professional sports teams.

Hockey

Three teams represent California in the NHL – the Los Angeles Kings, the San Jose Sharks, and the Anaheim Ducks. In addition, there are five teams in the AHL – the Stockton Heat, San Jose Barracuda, Bakersfield Condor, Ontario Reign, and San Diego Gulls. Of the three professional sports teams in the NHL, the Kings are (currently) arguably the best, having finished third in the Western Pacific Division for this latest season, with a 44/27 win to lose ratio, and a 99 points total.

Horse Racing

Horse racing was legalized in California many decades ago, so it is already a staunch ‘go to’ event for sports bettors in the sunshine state. There are several main horse racing tracks and meetings to attend, with some of the most historical, and beautiful tracks around the country being housed in California, including Del Mar Racetrack, Santa Anita Park, Los Alamitos Racecourse, and Golden Gates Field. In addition, you can even enjoy a bet on the horses from the comfort of your own home, as California sports betting measures allow for legalized online betting of the races.

Will California Sports Betting Sites Offer Bonuses?

As a way of welcoming new sports bettors, there’s no doubt that the online sports betting sites will have a whole range of offer bonuses to welcome new customers. It’s an established practice in the industry for gambling sites to have a range of bonuses available, so it’s down to the individual to select the one that’s best-suited to their requirements. Let’s take a look at some of the possible offer bonuses you’ll see on California sports betting sites. 

Matched Deposits

It’s highly likely you will find a matched deposit bonus offer on all of the best California betting sites. If you accept a matched deposit offer, this means that your chosen online sportsbook will simply match your deposit amount into your account. Typically, it will be given as a percentage from between 25% right up to a possible 200%. But, as with all offers there will be restrictions and terms with which the deposit can be used. Moreover, the offer may be capped at a maximum total so be sure to read through the t&cs of your chosen offer before accepting.  

Free Bets

Despite sounding too good to be true, free bets are actually one of the more common bonus offers you’ll find on online sportsbooks. They are a great way to encourage customers to engage, as it means potentially trying out something new without having to use any of your own cash. There will, of course, be various conditions of use with any free bet, such as having to place a deposit of a certain amount before having access to the bonus, so ensure you are comfortable with all eventualities before placing your deposit. 

Risk-Free Bets

With a risk-free bet, you are always going to get something in return for your deposit. Even if you lose your main bet, your California sports betting site will nevertheless offer you something, like a free credit or perhaps another bet, as a return. Risk-free bets are typically offered to new customers as a welcome bet, and despite sounding like the perfect betting scenario, we recommend reading through the terms and conditions before agreeing an acceptance. For example, there are often caps attached to the total amount and the return is typically not withdrawable.

Which Payment Methods Will I be Able to Use?

Once legalized, California betting sites are sure to offer a whole host of payment options, so you are sure to find one that suits your banking methods. At the moment we cannot be certain with any definitive answer as to the exact methods that will be made available, however, we can speculate, so let’s take a look at the ones we assume will be there. 

Debit Cards

It’s pretty much a given that payment via debit card will always be available through California sports betting sites. Deposits via debit card are usually completed in an instant, with withdrawals taking a few days to reach your bank account. However, there is the option of accessing the Visa Fast Funds service if your debit card is connected to Visa. To reiterate, we can’t be certain of any of these details; however, looking at trends of other states that have already legalized sports betting, we can assume that debit cards will be a viable option.

e-Wallets

A faster payment option through the likes of Neteller, Skrill, and PayPal e-wallets are a great way of keeping your funds safe, negating the need to hand over personal banking details online. Often manageable via an app, e-wallets allow you clear sight of your account transactions and are an easy way of moving your money around. e-Wallets are reliable and secure, but be mindful that they are often excluded from bonus eligibility. This is because e-wallets often charge vendor fees on transactions, so the sportsbook would pick up a cost by offering bonuses through them. 

Prepaid Cards 

Prepaid cards, such as Paysafecard, can be bought over the counter at many retail stores, and will be a great way of placing bets via California online sports betting sites. Once paid for, your card’s unique PIN can be entered onto your chosen site, allowing you to make your deposit.

Prepaid cards are ideal for sports bettors that have a strict maximum amount of money they’d like to gamble. They’re also perfect for the safety-conscious who aren’t comfortable entering personal banking details on a sports betting site. Again, be aware of terms and conditions before placing a deposit. For example, in a similar light to e-wallets, you will sometimes find that withdrawals to your prepaid card account are not possible through certain sites it’s also always impossible to transfer winnings back onto your actual card.

Will I be Able to Bet on Mobile?

Following the latest sports betting initiative, and the November ballot taking place for California voters, we can, at present, only predict which methods of betting will be available. However, following the trends of other recently legalized states, our assumption is that mobile betting will be available via California sports betting sites.

Mobile betting adds a more versatile option to sports betting markets. It means you can check your account, place wagers, or look up current odds from wherever you are.

If you find you are regularly accessing mobile betting sites, you may find it more beneficial to download the relevant mobile app. Using an app instead of a mobile site can lead to a highly personalized betting experience. However on the flip side, it takes up space in your phone’s storage, whereas mobile sites only use web server space, and are still available on all smart phone devices. If you are a frequent visitor to California betting sites then an app may be more beneficial – there’s no need to repeatedly log in, plus you will find features that may not be available for general site users.

Either way, explore both options when the time comes and see which is best for your needs.  

Is Daily Fantasy Sports Legal in California?

While it’s still not legal to engage in online sports betting in California, sports bettors are able to bet on Daily Fantasy Sports . Through many of the major bookies, such as Draftkings and Fanduel, you can place wagers and claim bonuses on a number of different sports teams and competitions. Technically, DFS isn’t legalized in California, however, DFS sites argue that their competitions are a game of skill and are therefore not recognizable under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. The debate on legality will continue amongst lawmakers and DFS providers, and while sports betting proposals are also on the discussion table, we can only assume that the two will be pushed through together. In the meantime, DFS sites operate freely, offering online betting in a fantasy style of game.

Tribal Gaming Establishments in California

The tribal gambling market in California is ripe with options and variety. In fact, California’s tribal gambling market is one of the largest regulated casino markets in the world, recording annual revenues of $7bn. There are currently 76 California tribal gaming establishments, offering a variety of gambling activities that include slot machines, table games, off-track betting and bingo.

What Else Can I Bet On in California?

In California there is a wide array of gambling options available to residents and visitors. There is a state run lottery and, in the absence of sports betting in California, bettors can enjoy a variety of different casino games, including:

  • Slots
  • Off track betting
  • Poker
  • Bingo
  • Blackjack
  • Baccarat
  • Roulette
  • Craps
  • Ultimate Texas Hold’em

Gambling laws in California are very different to other states- certain types of gambling are deemed legal or illegal based on different factors. Games played with a dice or ball, like craps or roulette, are illegal in California. Certain establishments in the state have found a way around this by putting their own spin on the games, using cards instead of dices or balls.

Online gambling sites have not yet been legalized in California. There have been many discussions on the topic of online gambling in the state, these have been centered mainly around the legalization of online poker. The main issue with legalizing online gambling in California is potential impact it could have on State-Tribal gambling compacts, as online gambling sites would be a large competitor for these land-based gaming establishments.

In the absence of online gambling in California, residents and visitors can enjoy social casino sites. California offers a selection of social casino sites that is very similar to other US states. You can find the typical range here with big names including Zynga, Slotomania, Doubledown and Bigfish, as well as MGM’s MyVegas platform. The tribal gambling establishment, Black Oak Casino, located in Tuolumne, also offers a social casino site for California residents.

Are Offshore Gambling Sites Legal in California?

Offshore gambling and sports betting sites fall into a grey area for California, given that online gambling is not legal here. While there is prohibiting or permitting them, we’d recommend steering clear of offshore gambling sites. These sites don’t have a license to operate in California, which means there are no guaranteed measures in place to protect players and their finances.

You can spot offshore gambling sites by looking at the website’s domain name. Domains ending in .EU or .AG don’t hold a California license and should be avoided at all costs.

Will It Be Safe to Bet On Sports in California?

Once legalized, all legitimate sports betting operators will be regulated and licensed. The team at Compare.bet will only ever recommend or review a California sports betting site that achieves a strict list of criteria and therefore enhances the safety of the user.

However, even with regulation in place, it’s important to gamble responsibly, and avoid betting more than you can afford to lose.

If you have any concerns that you or a loved one may be suffering from problem gambling, you should contact the California Council on Problem Gambling or the Office of Problem Gambling, run by the California Department of Public Health. Both have a number of resources available to help.

You can contact the California Council on Problem Gambling via:
Phone: 1-800-GAMBLER (426-2537)
Text the word ‘support’ to 53342

You can contact the Office of Problem Gambling via:
Phone: (916) 327-8611
E-Mail: [email protected]

Who Regulates Sports Gambling in California?

The regulation of the gambling sector in California is split between two bodies: the California Gambling Control Commission and the California Bureau of Gambling Control. The California Gambling Control Commission is the official state gambling regulator and aims to ensure that the gambling industry in California is free of criminal activity and corruption, honest and fair. The California Bureau of Gambling Control is a part of the California Department on Justice which is responsible for regulating legal gambling in California.

How old do I have to be to gamble in California?

In California, the legal age to play the lottery, bingo and place pari-mutuel wagers is 18, but . bettors must be 21 years old to participate in any other form of gambling. However, many of the state’s casinos have restricted entrance to over 21 as a way of managing alcohol sales more easily.

The Journey to Legal and Regulated Sports Betting in California

1980s – Native American tribal communities cite that they are recognized as sovereign nations and begin offering bingo games with real money prizes.

1984 – The state government enact the Gaming Registration Act, tasking the Attorney General’s office with providing a regulation for card rooms in California. However, inadequate funding makes the body realize it needs a much broader look at the industry. This lead to the implementation of the Gambling Control Act and the creation of the Division of Gambling Control.

1987 – After a lengthy court case between the State of California and the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, the Supreme Court rules that tribal communities can operate casinos outside of the state’s jurisdiction because they are recognized as a sovereign nation. As long as a state does not prohibit all forms of gambling a Native American tribal group are free to operate a casino establishment.

1988 – Congress passes the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to handle native American gambling in the future. This act states that tribal communities and state governments can enter into agreements called compacts or joint agreements to make clear what types of gambling can be offered by native establishments.

1992 – Congress passes the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) prohibiting sports betting across US states. Four states are made exempt from the law: Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana. These states have legal sports betting regulations in place.

1998 – Tribal communities spend $67.5m on Proposition 5, allowing the tribes to establish gambling rights in the state of California. This is a hotly debated topic, as Governor Pete Wilson does not want to allow the tribal casinos to offer slot machines and other forms of gambling.

1999 – Governor Gray Davis signs 58 tribal gaming compacts that would allow them to offer card games and up to 2000 slot machines in each casino. In terms of revenue it is agreed that $150m will be allocated to tribal communities that do not gamble. The state does not receive any of this revenue for its general fund.

2000 – The public votes on another proposition, Proposition 1A, making an amendment to the Californian constitution and allowing tribal casinos to offer class III gambling on tribal property, as long as it was in accordance with gaming compacts between the state. The state Supreme Court strikes down the 1998 measure that granted the Californian tribal communities the right to offer different gambling options, rendering the compacts void.

2004 – The tribal communities negotiate with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to reinstate the tribal gaming compacts. One of the main negotiation points is scrapping the limit of 2000 slot machines in casinos. The tribes are offered a payment of $1b to ensure this.

2007 – The Attorney General redefines the Division of Gaming Control as a Bureau. This becomes the Bureau of Gambling Control and is positioned within the Department of Justice Division of Law Enforcement.

2017 – In July, Assemblymember Adam Gray introduces ACA-18, an amendment to the constitution to allow sports betting. The amendment would allow the state “to permit sports wagering only if a change in federal law occurs.”

2018 – On 14 May, the Court reaches a decision. A 7 – 2 vote agrees that one of the clauses in PASPA violated the Tenth Amendment, commandeering power from states to regulate their own gambling industries. This paves the way for all US state to decide whether or not to legalize sports betting.

In October the United Auburn Indian Community (UAIC) enters into a partnership with MGM GVC Interactive for future California sports betting operations. MGM GVC Interactive, is a joint venture between the Nevada based MGM Resorts and the British company GVC Holdings. This puts the UAIC in a strong position to offer sports betting if it is deemed legal by the state in the future.

The legal battle for legal sports betting in California is still happening, so be sure to check back with Compare.bet for updates as the situation develops.

2019 – California Assembly member Adam Gray and Senator Bill Dodd each proposed sports betting bills. The former was titled ACA 16 and was set to “authorize the legislature by statute to authorize and provide for the regulation of sports wagering.” Dodds’ similar bill, the California Sports Wagering and Consumer Protection Act, was named SCA 6. Following these proposals, at least 18 Californian tribes filed a collaborative petition, “California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act” which was considered an attempt to get a ballot for land-based sports betting without first discussing with the State General Assembly. 

2020 – Despite the first sports betting hearing being held in January of this year, the tribes’ efforts to achieve a million names on their petition was stumped by the pandemic. Due to COVID-19 but also legislative timeframes, as well as the tribes’ petition, Dodds retracted proposal CSA 6. By December, following an extended date for petition submission, the tribes’ achieved, and actually exceeded, the required number of names on their petition.

2021 – Last year saw a positive step towards sports betting legislation being passed in California. On 26 May 2021, the office of the Secretary of State, Shirley Weber, announced that the coalition of tribes had gathered enough valid signatures, and that the debate on sports betting legislation would move to a ballot. California voters will be able to decide on the initiative that will lead to legalized sports betting at tribal casinos and licensed horse tracts in the state. In addition, roulette and other dice games at tribal casinos will also be legalized, adding a 10% tax on sports betting profits from horse racing tracks.

Towards the end of the summer, a third initiative was put on the table. Titled “California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act.” As well as other influential names in the industry, this paper was backed by Draftkings, BetMGM, and FanDuel. To be considered for the November 2022 ballot, it requires almost a million valid signatures backing it. 

In addition to this, a coalition of cities within the state of California submitted a draft initiative to also be considered for the November ballot. Within this, the hope is to block the monopoly that will be held by the tribal initiative across all casino activity in the state. Again, almost a million names are needed for it to qualify for the ballot. 

2022 – Various polls and surveys were held in the first half of the year. For example, the Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming announced results that claim the majority of California voters are against the legalization of online sports betting.

In contrast, as of May 2022, over 1.6 million Californians have put their names forward in support of legalization. We all wait with anticipation for the upcoming ballot in November 2022 that’s set to determine the potential for an online sports betting measure for the state.

The people behind this page

Compare.bet's online gambling content experts helped write, edit and check the content on this page:

Jake is a gambling content specialist for Compare.bet, with a focus on the regulated US market. He is responsible for producing news content for Compare.bet News, state guides for Compare.bet US and has interviewed several senior executives within the gambling industry. Jake previously wrote for Gambling Insider and LGBT+ news site PinkNews.