Although a small hiccup with the suspension of professional and college games in the US (and around the world) in early 2020, sport games have resumed ever so slowly. As a result, sports betting in California is beginning to pick up, but it is still a trickle, when compared to pre Covid-19 times.
Social distancing and other safety measures have been implemented to bring back some normality to sport, but it is still stymied by the fact that there is no vaccine for the corona virus.
California gambling is now turning more than ever to online games, and as a consequence, sport bets are also increasing for online platforms. Often, the legality of online sports betting from California is questioned, but it is in fact legal as a sports bettor (not as a sports book operator) to engage with sports betting. We explain further down the page.
In turning to online sports betting, it’s important to choose carefully, not only for the serious sports bettor who is continually searching for the best odds, but also for the casual bettor who should seek a sports book that is reliable, honest and customer orientated.
California Sports Gambling Laws
For the TL;DR summary, yes, it is legal for sports bettors from California to place a bet online. It is commonly misinterpreted that the current laws prohibit sports betting both for operators and for the bettor, but this is incorrect.
Now, before we delve further, I do not pretend to be a law expert. In fact, I’m far from it. I’m a sports fan who has looked into US Federal and State sports betting laws and has derived my own opinion. I do not encourage or condone anyone breaking any law(s), whether they be Federal, State, Local or International. In that regard, if you feel you arw unsure and need to seek a second opinion then please do so.
Sports gambling laws in the US revolve around the dance between Federal and State laws. There are several key laws that were introduced in the past and with context, you will then understand why the laws would allow Californian sports bettors to place a bet online.
One of the earliest, prominent laws that related to gambling (in general) was the Organized Crime Act of 1955. The 1950’s was an era when the mafia was rising in prominence – illegal organized activities were growing and according authorities needed more power to put a stranglehold on the mafia. As a consequence, the Organized Crime Act stipulated that sport books could not raise more that $2,000 is sport wagering and cannot exceed more that five sports betting customers. As you, can see, it allowed sports bettors to place a bet, but attempted to strange the size of a sports book.
Then came along the Wire Act of 1961 – a rather unusual name to prohibit sports gambling. During this era, telephony was the new technological break through, and this allowed sports betting to spread across the country. Sport books could take in sports bets via the telephone and further launder monies from illegal activities. The Wire Act was introduced to stem the flow of bets through telephony. Again, it didn’t restrict the sports bettor, but the facilitation of placing a bet using the telephone. Naturally, as new technology i.e. the internet, came into existence the application of the Wire Act becomes almost redundant and also confusing.
In the late 1980’s and the early 1990’s, college sports betting scandals were uncovered and a new law was introduced on a Federal level which very much killed the local sports betting industry. There were exemptions, for Nevada, Oregon, Delaware, and New Jersey, but for the other US States (California included), the PASPA laws became in force.
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, explicitly prohibited any form of sports gambling operation but it was particularly aimed at preventing US states from operating a sports lottery, sweep stake, fantasy league etc. Again, you can see that the intention of the law was not preventing a sports bettor from placing a bet, but rather restricting the sports book operations.
The next law introduced, wasn’t so much about sports betting, but was due to the online poker craze that ballooned in the early 2000s. The UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) came into effect, snuck through into law by being attached to an anti terrorism bill. It is not the most clear of laws (with a lot of ambiguity), but in essence it made it illegal for US banks to facilitate transactions with offshore casinos and sport books. Again, as with earlier laws, this did not make it illegal to play online poker or to place an online sports bet, it simply meant that the avenue to place a bet was not able to be implemented. No longer could a deposit be made with an offshore provider with a bank wire. That is why, digital wallets became extremely popular during this era.
A huge change of events came in May 2018, when the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the PASPA. This meant that each State could now determine their own laws regarding onshore sports book operations. As a result, this was a catalyst for sports betting law discussion in the state of California.
California state law has yet to pass any legislation which permits local or state run sports betting lottery, sweep states or any form of sports book. However, this does not mean that sports bettors cannot place a bet with any sports book that is willing to take bets.
Offshore Sport Betting Sites
Offshore sports betting sites are therefore not illegal for Californians to bet at. However, it is illegal for banks to actively facilitate sports betting transactions to known offshore sport books. As a result, you will find that there are many offshore sport books that openly accept bettors from California and offer deposit methods that can be used. The best sports betting sites offer trusted and reliable deposit methods. Obviously, there are many new digital wallets as well as cryptocurrencies available, however, we strongly recommend to stick to the sport betting sites which use tried and trusted deposit methods.
Choosing the Best Sports Betting Sites
Californians are fortunate to have a wide range of sports betting sites to choose from. But this makes it all the more important to choose carefully.
There are many considerations to factor in, so we will highlight a handful for you.
Top Betting Odds
Now this is hard to judge for sports betting sites. If you are an avid sports bettor, you will know that odds will swing backwards and forwards due to several reasons. Different sport books have different risk appetites. Sport books also have different areas of expertise in analyzing various sports. And lastly, they may have big bettors which will require the sports book to reduce odds on the bet that was placed and to increase offsetting odds to reduce their risk (effectively laying off like an insurance company).
Therefore comparing sports books to assess which offers the best odds are very difficult. But it is known that the bigger and more reputable books generally will give good odds. They have the ability to reduce the VIG (which is implicitly built into the odds) and give a more attractive betting option to their customers.
Often the smaller sport book makers will follow the leaders, because it is difficult to project accurate odds the more premature the odds are released to the market. Therefore, as a bettors, the best internet sports betting sites are those which provide early odds. The early the odds, the better chance you have of picking a good value bet. The more time there is between an event taking place, the more risk there is for the sports book in making an error is risk judgment. This is where, you as a bettor, get to take the opportunity to take advantage of this. Therefore, you will find that the larger, more reputable sports betting sites will be able to cater for the risk and provide for early odds.
California Sport Betting Developments
California is falling behind other US States with sports betting law reformation due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Lawmakers have delayed hold Senate and House sessions to debate introduced Bills. As a consequence, a referendum will be held in 2022 to determine if state laws can be amended to allow for onshore sports betting.
Assemblyman Adam Gray introduced amendments to two bills, to the current legislative session. The first, seeks to license and regulate the fantasy sports market through The Internet Fantasy Sports Games Consume Protection Act (AB1437). Whilst the second, titled The Interactive Sports Wagering Consumer Protection Act (AB1441), is focused on regulating online sports betting. Both bills were re-referred to the Governmental Organisation Committee for subsequent readings.
Adam Gray, announced that the Governmental Organization Committee, will hold an informational hearing on daily fantasy sports to inform the legislature about the industry. The Draft Kings “insiderbetting” case, was given as an example of the dangers of the unregulated industry and to highlight the need for a framework to regulate it.
Governor Jerry Brown, signed bill 549, to allow professional sports teams to hold in-game charitable raffles. The bill states, 50% of the proceeds must go to charity with the winning ticket holder taking the other 50%.
The Governmental Organisation Committee passed a bill to regulate daily fantasy sports in the state. AB1437, received an 18 to 1 majority and was subsequently re-referred to the Committee on Appropriations.
The Committee on Appropriations unanimously passed DFS bill AB1437. The bill was returned to the House for a vote.
Assemblyman Adam Gray proposed a constitutional amendment to authorize sports betting provided PASPA is repealed. The amendment would be required to pass the legislature by a two-thirds majority before it can be placed on a ballot for the next referendum.
Assemblyman Adam Gray and Senator Bill Dodd introduced legislation to authorise sportsbetting subject to state-wide voter approval. The constitutional amendment bill, ACA 16, would require the approval of at least two thirds of the legislature in order to put the question of legalising
sportsbetting on the November 2020 ballot;
The California Nations Indian Gaming Association stated that the “CNIGA does not support any expansion of gaming in California, including sports betting until the for-profit, commercial card rooms stop their illegal practices, including constitutionally prohibited banked games. A legitimate discussion on sports betting could then proceed as long as tribal exclusivity is maintained.”
A coalition of 18 tribes filed a ballot measure to legalize sports betting subject to state-wide voter approval. The measure proposes permitting retail sports betting at tribal casinos and racetracks with a tax rate of 10% on gross win. Mobile betting was not included in the proposals. If approved by the legislature, the ballot would be included on the November 2020 referendum.
Assemblyman Adam Gray and Senator Bill Dodd put forward their detailed proposals for the regulation of sports betting in the state. The legislators introduced a place-holder bills in June 2019 to allow for a state-wide regulation on the authorization of sports betting. They have now amended the bills to clarify how they propose to operate sports betting in the state should it become legal. The bills would permit the states tribal casinos and racetracks to offer retail and online betting at a tax rate of 10% and 15% of gross win respectively and permit each licensee to offer one (1) online skin.
Operators would be required to use official league data for in-play wagering. Whilst the bill does not permit cardrooms to offer wagering it does clarify that they would be permitted to continue offering card games such as blackjack. It would also allow tribal casinos to expand their casino offering to include roulette and craps.
The Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering, a body representing 25 Native American tribes in the state, filed a lawsuit in order to gain more time to collect the required 1 million signatures needed to qualify their ballot proposal to legalize sports betting. The Coalition has requested a 90-day extension to the previous deadline of 25 June 2020 as a result of the disruption caused by the state’s COVID19 lockdown.
Senator Bill Dodd withdrew sports betting legalisation bill ACA 16 from the 2020 legislative session. Senator Dodd stated that due to delays caused by COVID19 it was not possible to progress the bill in the current session.
The lawsuit filed by The Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering to be granted a 90-day extension on gathering the required signatures for their ballot question was scheduled to be heard in court on 02 July 2020.
The California Superior Court granted the Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering a 90-day extension to gather the required signatures to qualify their ballot question for the 2022 referendum.
Sports betting as a bettor is legal in the state of California. You will NOT find any in person retail outlets or onshore sport sites, however there are offshore sports betting available. These sites are legal and legitimate to bet on.
Ongoing development for onshore sports betting retail, commercial and online laws continue to be pending till a referendum is held in 2022.