California Democrats Vote To Oppose Legal Online Sports Betting in 2022

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
California Democrats Vote To Oppose Legal Online Sports Betting in 2022

If online sports betting in California is going to become legal this November, it will have to overcome a monstrous, somewhat unexpected hurdle: opposition from California Democrats.

This past weekend, California Democrats, who represent the state's controlling political party, voted against supporting a sports betting initiative that would legalize online gambling sponsored by commercial operators. They also agreed to remain neutral on the other sports betting initiative set to appear on the November ballot, which calls for in-person wagering throughout the state's federally recognized tribal casinos and nowhere else.

By assuming this stance, of course, California Democrats haven't actually remained neutral. This move is akin to throwing their full support behind the tribes who both want to offer legal sports betting without having to compete with bigger out-of-state operators such as DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM and more.

Granted, this isn't the end-all of the discussion. Voters in California will still get to have their say at the polls this November. But there's no doubt California Democrats have now made it less likely we see the state legalize online gambling in 2022.

Why Did California Democrats Vote Down Online Sports Betting?

California Democrats gave a litany of reasons for why they opposed the commercial sports betting bill, which has now become known as Prop 27. They have concerns about funneling money to out-of-state businesses as well as the exploitative nature of sports betting advertisements, which serve to reach some of the youngest potential clientele while also disproportionately targeting lower-income neighborhoods and residents.

This echoes a lot of what the tribes have been saying as they've attempted to take on Prop 27, which was bankrolled by some of the most recognizable online sportsbooks in the business. As Reid Milanovich, the tribal chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, said in a recent press release:

"By opposing Prop 27, California Democrats rejected out-of-state corporations and reaffirmed their commitment to California’s Indian tribes. Prop 27 is not a solution to anything. It would expose children to a massive expansion of gambling and turn every cellphone, gaming console, tablet, and laptop into a gambling device. Prop 27 is a direct attack on tribal gaming and Indian self-reliance.”

Those behind Prop 27 had hoped they installed enough appealing conditions to win over California Democrats. Not only is a bulk of the tax revenue generated supposed to go toward the fight against homelessness, but commercial online operators would be required to pay a licensing fee 10 times more than that of tribal casinos. Prop 27 also called for every licensed online sportsbook to partner with at least one tribal casino to ensure a fairer market ground.

Inevitably, though, California Democrats didn't think that was enough. Many have pointed to ambiguous language that suggests the tax revenue wouldn't actually contribute to the fight against homelessness. More than anything, though, it seems that California is worried that a sports betting market expected to be worth more than $15 billion per year will wind up sending too much of that cash to companies neither operating within nor directly contributing to the state's local economies.

Is Sports Betting in California Now Dead?

Proponents of sports betting aren't plum out of luck. Both California sports betting initiatives will still appear on the November ballot. Voters will ultimately have the final say.

Still, this latest development increases the likelihood that the tribal-backed bill, which is now being called Prop 26, makes it through the polls with more momentum. And that, in turn, would drastically change the way sports betting throughout California is implemented.

Under Prop 26, only in-person sports betting will be legalized. Those in-person wagers can also only take place inside one of the state's federally recognized tribal casinos. Not even tribal-operated card rooms are granted licenses under Prop 26, which has sought to preserve the local tribes' rights to oversee all of California's gambling.

Will California Democrats Prevent Online Sports Betting?

Here's the cold, hard truth of this matter: Regardless of what happens in November, California Democrats will not stop out-of-state gambling altogether.

Residents can still travel across state lines and bet on sports. Las Vegas is only a short drive and even shorter flight away. There are also plenty of reputable oddsmakers from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks that will allow Californians to set up and operate an account right now.

With all of that said, legalizing only in-person will have ramifications that could impact the larger future of sports betting in the United States. Many other states who have yet to green light digit wagering are watching to see what California does. If they fail to legal online sports betting this time around, it could mean that states such as Texas, Florida, Oklahoma and Georgia, among others, follow suit—if not continue to reject legal sports betting initiatives altogether.

This is all to say: The stakes attached to the November elections are incredibly high. And from the looks of things right now, California Democrats may have prevented the state from having legal online sports betting for at least the next few years.

Then again, this presumes their constituents agree with them. Studies show that a majority of voters in California support some form for sports betting legalization. As for which form they prefer—in-person only or open-ended access—that much isn't quite clear. But it will be in just a few months time.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for all of your sports betting needs:

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

Online Sports Betting may receive compensation if you sign up through our links. Rest assured, we avoid biases and provide honest opinions on sportsbooks. Read more here.