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, but state lawmakers are taking steps to introduce sports betting legislation relatively soon. In July 2017, Assemblymember 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 After it was announced that PASPA had been repealed, Gray spoke again on the matter, making it clear that he wanted to amend the constitution to allow sports betting.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, but this will not be considered until the 2020 state election. However, if the group can secure between 500,000 and 600,000 signatures supporting the initiative, it may be brought forward to an earlier consideration.

But before anything solid can materialize, the state government will need to look at 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 at this point.

What sports will I be able to bet on?

There isn’t yet any clear indication as to the sports you will be able to bet on in California. If the state follows the same route as Nevada and New Jersey US sportsbooks, it is likely that legislation will permit wagers on all professional sport events and collegiate events with the exception of events featuring Californian college teams.

Where will I be able to place bets on sporting events in California?

There is currently only one establishment in California that is in a position to offer sports betting, if state government were to legalize it. The Thunder Valley Casino Resort, operated by the United Auburn Indian Community (UAIC) may be the first establishment in California to offer sports betting if it is made legal.

In October 2018, the tribal group announced that it had entered into a partnership with MGM GVC Interactive for future sports betting operations. MGM GVC Interactive is a joint venture between the Nevada-based MGM Resorts and the British company, GVC Holdings. Details of the partnership are vague, but MGM and GVC will provide the UAIC with the technology and brands to help launch mobile and retail sports betting, as well as an online casino. However, there isn’t yet any information regarding sports betting sites or legal online sports betting in California.

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 69 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 in 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?

Providing that sports betting operators abide by any Californian regulatory policies, sports betting should be safe and fair. 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: OPG@cdph.ca.gov

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 BettingUS for updates as the situation develops.