The Passing of Sports Betting in California. Benefit or Burden?

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By Durgesh Prajapati

In its current form, California is something of a gamblers paradise with its myriad of Native American casinos, card houses, and just a short distance away from Nevada. Although online gambling is widespread in many other states, this isn’t the case for California. In fact, the only legal form of online gambling there is Daily Fantasy Sports.

Some of these limitations go back to 1987 when a US supreme court ruling banned gambling on tribal land. Therefore, tribal casinos remain the only place where traditional games like lottery, slots and horse racing remain legal. However, casino owners and major league teams are pushing for legislation to be passed that would legalize sports betting in California.

The Current Picture of Legal Gambling in the Golden State

The picture of legal gambling across the US is a confusing one because each state has its own rules. Some states have legalized real money casinos where players can access forms of casino games like slots and poker. And although real money casinos maybe legal, in most states sports and commercial betting still remain illegal. There are only a handful of states that allow all forms of gambling. There are also some states where gambling is still illegal such as California for example where even online real money casinos is illegal.

Here is the current state of gambling in the Golden State based on the main types of gambling.

Land-Based Gaming. Commercial casinos aren’t let legal in California. However, card rooms, non-banked card games and poker have always been legal in the state.

Sweepstakes Gaming. Although free entry sweepstakes are perfectly legal, ones requiring payment for entry, or within the game, are not. Online sweepstakes remain rare. However, players based in California can play in them outside their area without being prosecuted.

Sports Betting. The current status of sports betting in California is in limbo. Many companies are keen to launch in California, but recent measures to legalize sports betting were put on hold. Considering the current economic climate, concerns have been raised that this delay could contribute to the loss of millions of dollars in taxes every year.

Charitable Gaming & Lottery. The California state lottery was approved thanks to a vote referendum back in 1984 and tickets went on sale one year after. While some forms of gambling continue to be illegal, others can be used to raise money for charities. It’s also legal to gamble at home, except for hosting poker games for profit.

With Legislation Postponed, does Sports Betting Have a Future in California?

The potential to legalize sports betting in California begun two years ago; however, little progress has been made in making it legal due to conflicting views between gambling rivals. Sports betting is actually legal in 24 other American states. The presence of casinos in California run by native American tribes has led to a clash with rivals over its share of the market. A coalition of 25 native tribes has claimed that business may be taken from their casinos if sports betting is legalized.

There was hope for a measure to be passed in this Novembers ballot. Otherwise known as SCA-6, this would dissolve the agreement between native tribes and California, essentially bringing Nevada style games to card rooms.

However, due to a lack of time, this has now been shelved for another year. Specifically, two-thirds of the vote from both houses of legislature was required by a set deadline. This has had to be pushed forward to the next ballot in 2022 by the senator.

Tribes themselves are attempting to introduce their own ballot measure which would limit sports betting to horse tracks and tribal casinos only. It would also allow roulette and craps at tribal casinos only and introduce a 10% tax of all revenue gained from gaming at racing tracks. As of yet, not enough signatures have been collected to pass this. However, a court decision is pending on an extension.

The situation has caused widespread anger as if the bill had been passed by now, the extra revenue generated could have helped lower the number of state programs being cut. This has caused particular tension between the tribal casinos and other owners. It’s also been argued that the delay is yet another reason for the black market to thrive.

This is something that has been advocated particularly strongly by several professional sports leagues, who believe that the current situation leaves Californians open to problems as a result of using unregulated offshore apps and websites. This was submitted by the Los Angeles Football Club in a letter, attempting to encourage approval of the bill.

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