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California Review

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California Sports Betting: On Hold While the Players Negotiate

California sports fans looking to wager legally will have to wait on the sidelines for now. Two separate proposals for legal sports betting brought before voters in the 2022 elections were soundly defeated.

These initiatives, championed by national sports betting companies, faced fierce opposition from California’s powerful tribal nations who operate casinos within the state.

Finding Common Ground: A Challenge

Experts believe legal sports betting in California might be a long shot in the immediate future. Here’s why:

  • Ballot Initiative Fatigue: National betting companies may be wary of pushing another ballot initiative after the 2022 rebuff. Rebuilding trust with the tribes is seen as essential, as acknowledged by industry leaders.
  • Constitutional Amendment Hurdles: This approach was previously explored but stalled due to disagreements between various stakeholders, including tribes, card rooms, and the intricate web of California gaming laws.

Tribes Hold the Bargaining Chip

While the tribes secured a win in 2022, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re opposed to all forms of sports betting. Notably, some tribal nations proposed their own initiative in 2023 that included both online and retail sports betting, though it ultimately didn’t make it to the ballot.

The prevailing sentiment suggests the tribes, with their substantial political clout, can afford to be patient. They might be content with offering sports betting on their terms in the future, without outside influence.

California Sports Betting FAQs

No, sports betting is currently illegal in California, both online and in person.

Two main reasons: opposition from powerful tribal nations who operate casinos, and competition between national betting companies and the tribes for control of the market.

Experts believe it might be a few years. Rebuilding trust between tribes and national betting companies, or navigating a complex constitutional amendment process, are both hurdles to overcome.

The picture is not entirely black and white. While they opposed the 2022 proposals, some tribes did propose their own initiative in 2023 that included sports betting, suggesting they might be open to the idea on their own terms.

The answer remains unclear. Negotiations between tribes, national betting companies, and the state government will determine the path forward.

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