The online gambling industry has great potential in California. As the country’s most populous state, the possibilities for a thriving industry are real. But even so, recent attempts to introduce and pass online gambling legislation have been unsuccessful.
That could all be about to change though as lawmakers start to realize the full potential of a regulated online gambling market. This is in large part thanks to the successful launch of sports betting across multiple states. As states such as Illinois break tax revenue records month after month, it’s only a matter of time before California jumps on the sports betting bandwagon.
But where are we at right now?
The current state of play
There are dozens of online casinos in the United States that allow players to register on their platforms regardless of which state they are resident in. And the same can be said for offshore online sportsbooks which allow Californians to place wagers through their sports betting apps.
This is because California is one of those states that doesn’t expressly prohibit online gaming in its constitution or laws. However, this also means that there is no regulatory body that oversees the market or collects taxes from these operators—a situation that some lawmakers are eager to change.
2021 legislative attempts
As mentioned earlier, there have been quite a few attempts to pass iGaming and sports betting
legislation in particular throughout the years and 2021 was no different.
March 2021 — there were suggestions that a recall election for Governor Gavin Newsom could also include a ballot measure for sports betting. However, this failed to materialize.
May 2021 — California’s first sports betting initiative led by tribal groups collected 1,061,282 signatures meaning that it would be included on the 2022 ballot. This was seen as a major success in the potential legalization of sports betting allowing Californians to have their own say.
August 2021 — A coalition that included California cities, card rooms, and sports leagues announced a second initiative to have sports betting appear on the 2022 ballot. This would allow for voters to decide on the legalization of both retail and mobile sports betting in the state.
August 2021 — A third initiative was announced that was backed by sports betting operators. This could be significant as major operators have intimated that they would invest $100 million in this initiative.
Will 2022 be the year of change?
This is a good question as the year started off with the news that card room operators have requested that the California Supreme Court block the vote on one proposal. The argument is that the initiative led by tribal groups violates the state constitution as it includes more than one subject on the ballot.
The tribal proposal wants to legalize sports betting at tribal gambling facilities and also includes the legalization of dice and roulette games. It’s this inclusion of other games that the card rooms have an issue with as it could lead to confusion among voters.
However, even if the card rooms are successful in stopping the first initiative, voters will still get a chance to vote on sports betting. According to an opinion poll held by the Sacramento Bee, 70% of respondents want sports betting to be legalized. While this is, of course, no guarantee that all voters will feel the same way, it does suggest that there is a very good chance that sports betting will become legal in California at some point in 2023. The regulated U.S sportsbook industry has more than 35 legal sports betting sites in operation in various states
So what about online casinos?
The passing of sports betting legislation would be a clear indication that the state’s lawmakers are open to the idea of change and that is key to the future of online casino gaming in the state.
The fact is that various forms of casino gaming are already allowed in the state through its live card rooms and tribal gaming venues. Allowing the likes of dice games and roulette at these venues, as is requested by the tribal groups’ sports betting initiative, isn’t too much of a stretch. And if that happens, online casino operators in the USA would have all the precedence they need to push for legal online casino gaming legislation.
It may not happen in the very near future, but once sports betting is legalized here in California, full iGaming legislation could very well be next on the agenda.