As the world’s fifth-largest economy, California represents one of the most significant gambling markets. A landmark Supreme Court decision 1987 regarding the state’s Native tribes permitted Tribal casinos to flourish.
In the wake of the 2003 – 2006 poker boom, online gambling became legal in the U.S. in 2011. After ongoing legal battles at the state level, the Supreme Court overturned a federal ban on sports wagering in 2018.
Many states nationwide implemented sports betting legislation, allowing retail and online operators to start.
What are the regulator’s challenges and advancements regarding California’s approach to online gambling?
Gambling in California
California deals with gambling laws through its various Tribal casinos and racetracks. Land-based Tribal casinos dominate the internally-regulated gambling market. As of December 2022, 85 Tribal casino locations supported almost 125,000 jobs.
The state negotiates revenue sharing with tribes, comprising $3.45 billion. The collective economic impact of the state’s Tribal casinos generated nearly $20 billion.
In November 2022, California voters had two ballot measures to consider on in-person and online sports betting. Proposition 26 would’ve legalized sports wagering at the state’s Tribal casinos and racetracks.
It failed to pass, with significant opposition claiming that the passage of Prop 26 would’ve given Tribal casinos a near-monopoly.
The second ballot measure, Proposition 27, sought to legalize online and mobile sports betting in California.
Proposition 27: Online Sports Betting in California
California voters made their voices heard at the ballot box on whether or not they wanted to legalize online sports betting. Before voting occurred, various committees contributed funds toward supporting and opposing Prop 27.
While those in favor of Prop 27 gave nearly $170 million, opposition supporters donated a staggering $249.4 million.
Out-of-state operators who wanted the measure to pass included some of the top companies in the gaming industry. In opposition to a competitive marketplace, the single largest source of donations came from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.
The group donated over $100 million to oppose Prop 27 (with some funds going to support Prop 26).
Both committees, for and against, spent about $80 million on TV advertising.
Supporters of Prop 27 centered their ads on Prop 27, appropriating tax revenues to help fight homelessness.
However, the measure failed to pass, with over 80% of voters choosing ‘No’ to Prop 27.
That left offshore gambling sites as the sole option for real money gambling online in California.
Offshore Gambling Sites Available to CA Players
Gamblers in jurisdictions with legal gray areas may access offshore gambling sites. Some countries and territories offer gambling-friendly pathways to receiving international gambling licenses.
Those areas include the Isle of Man, Malta, Gibraltar, and Curaçao.
Players must do some research to find reputable online gambling sites in California.
Legitimate gambling sites show on their websites where they’ve received licensing. Gamblers may also check expert reviews to understand a site’s online reputation.
No specific law makes online gambling sites legal or illegal in California. That makes the state an excellent jurisdiction for some of the best offshore gambling sites.
Choose an option that provides a generous welcome bonus. For example, Red Dog Casino offers a welcome bonus worth up to $8,000. There’s also a variety of promotions, including up to $1,700 for a Slots & Cards Bonus.
Other options for CA players include Bovada, SlotsandCasino, Ducky Luck, and Ignition.
California Gambling Laws
By state law, unregulated gambling remains illegal in California. Regulated gambling in the state pertains to Tribal casinos, horse racing, bingo, lotteries, and card rooms.
Passed in 1997, the Gambling Control Act created the California Gambling Control Commission. The Commission issues gaming licenses and regulates in-state gambling operations.
In previous years, California attempted to legalize online poker and other games. In 2016, Assembly Bill 2862—nicknamed the “Gray Bill” after its sponsor State Assemblyman Adam Gray—passed through a committee with a unanimous vote.
Concerns associated with the state’s horse racing industry were a roadblock to online poker legalization. The Gray Bill appropriated $60 million annually for the racing industry to compensate.
The California State Legislature ultimately rejected the Gray Bill in September 2016. It remains a debated issue among state lawmakers.
Social Casinos and Sweepstakes Gaming
With legislative roadblocks to legalizing online casinos in the U.S., one of the most significant trends comes from social gaming. Social casinos take advantage of states’ laws that permit games that offer redeemable awards via sweepstakes.
Since social casinos remain free, they’re one of the easiest ways for CA players to gamble online.
There are plenty of websites to choose from, some of which offer iOS and Android mobile apps. Games include slots, blackjack, poker, baccarat, craps, and bingo.
Top gambling companies may offer social gaming through their online platforms. Players might also find demo versions at online casinos to try some of the most popular games in the industry for free.
Outlook of Online Gambling in California
Gambling advancements in California mostly pertain to in-person and retail betting at Tribal casinos, racetracks, card rooms, bingo, and via state lotteries. In the future, CA players may get a chance to gamble online via the California State Lottery.
CA players’ best opportunities regarding a version of mobile wagering might come from off-track betting facilities for wagering on horse races. Popular race tracks include Santa Anita and Del Mar.
In California, offshore betting sites fill the legal gray area with fully licensed and regulated online sportsbooks, casinos, and poker rooms.
Gambling laws in California typically derive from referendums and constitutional amendments. That could change in 2024 and into the future.
What’s your favorite way to gamble online?