FanDuel President Says California Sports Betting Won't Be Legalized Before 2026

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Mar 17, 2024 12:00 AM
FanDuel president Christian Genetski does not see any way that California sports betting gets legalized before 2026. And he's right.

The wait for an optimistic view on the future of California sports betting has lasted nearly two years, dating back to the failure of two gambling bills during the 2022 general elections. And, well, FanDuel president Christian Genetski won’t be the one to end it.

Speaking during a panel at the FanDuel-branded Western Indian Gaming Conference earlier this week, the head honcho for one of the two largest online sportsbooks in the United States commented on the timeline for bringing legal sports betting to California

“Will [legalization] happen by 2026?” he said, per USA Today’s Ben Fawkes. “Well, it’s the first time it can happen. I can go on record that it’s not happening before that. But whether it’s 2026, 2028 or 2030, we’ll know when we know.”

Genetski’s comments are far from reassuring. And yet, they largely reinforce what we already know: Not only is sports betting in California far from imminent, but nobody seems to know when (or if) that’s going to change. 

The Reason California Sports Betting Cannot be Legalized Before 2026

Usually, when people project a California sports betting timeline, they are offering pure conjecture. Genetski did something similar when rattling off specific years. However, he was spot-on when he said that The Golden State won’t legalize sports betting prior to 2026.

Any eventual California sports betting bill will likely require a constitutional amendment. That means any initiative—or initiatives—must appear on a general election ballot. And those elections only take place in even-numbered years. 

The next one will happen this coming fall. Theoretically, the state legislature could approve a sports betting bill in time for it to appear on the 2024 ballot. But that would demand a 2024 California sports betting proposal exist at all. It currently does not.

After the 2022 fiasco, when two separate California gambling bills failed to gain voter approval, both tribal operators and corporate sportsbooks have punted on the introduction of initiatives in 2024. Now, a small confab of tech industry workers tried getting a couple of proposals off the ground earlier this year. But those California sports betting bills were thoroughly killed. The sponsors failed to collaborate with or gain support from state tribes, congress members or online sportsbook operators. 

As of now, then, there is no California sports betting measure for officials to deliberate or vote on. And that, in turn, guarantees there will be no sports gambling bill on the 2024 ballot. 

Put it all together, and that’s how Genetski landed where he did. Based on the current state of affairs, the earliest California sports betting can get legalized is roughly two years from now.

Is 2026 a Realistic Timeline for Sports Gambling to Arrive in California?

Establishing the earliest possible California sports wagering timeline is merely half the battle. The state actually has to legalize it. And given how things are now, there’s no guarantee anything changes by 2026.

The efforts to legalize sports betting in California a couple of years ago fell apart over the issue of online wagering. Mobile betting sites like FanDuel, DraftKings, Caesars and many others want to independently operate inside the state. Tribes, on the other hand, only want to allow them to serve as support for their own online sports betting applications. That’s why two separate bills ended up on the ballot. One was sponsored by the state’s tribes; the other was pushed by the top online sportsbooks in the United States

Warring agendas wound up upending the entire conversation. The legalization of California sports betting went from a foregone conclusion to a disastrous failure. That’s not going to change in 2026 unless tribes and mobile operators find common ground.

To this point, no happy medium has been explored. Both sides have said they’re willing to sit down and negotiate. But no tangible discussions have taken place. And if they have, they’ve neither been reported nor culminated in any meaningful changes. 

Which brings us to the latter half of Genetski’s thoughts on California sports betting. He offhandedly mentions 2026, but also rattles off 2028 and 2030. That’s by design. Sure, it seems wild that the biggest sports betting market in the United States may not legalize gambling by the end of the decade. But the stalemate between tribes and mobile sportsbooks suggest this might be the most likely outcome.

Genetski Offers Slight Hope for California Sports Betting Discussions

To be absolutely certain, Genetski did not write off California legalizing sports betting by the end of the decade altogether. On the contrary, he spoke candidly about what went wrong in 2022, suggesting that FanDuel and other mobile betting sites might be prepared to rework their approach in the not-too-distant future. Here’s what he said (via USA Today):

“When I reflect on 2022, I think if I’m being a little charitable it was what I would describe as a well-intentioned but uninformed and misguided attempt. It was definitely a spectacular failure from our perspective, but that’s OK. It wasn’t the time and it wasn’t the right way, and we understand that… It’s going to take us a long time to build anything remotely resembling trust, and we accept that and we appreciate it. If we can get to a place where we can start to move the ball forward on a construct that Indian country recognizes as a productive one, that’s when we’ll actually be some place.”

This can be interpreted a variety of different ways. On the one hand, it’s important that FanDuel executives, as well as C-Suiters from other companies, have the self-awareness to accept and try remedying past mistakes. On the other hand, Genetski repeatedly emphasizes that the development of a working relationship with tribes will take a lot of time. And that doesn’t bode particularly well for hopes of California sports betting by 2026.

What will ultimately happen? We can’t be sure. Not even Genetski seems remotely confident in what comes next—a less than encouraging sign, yet not quite a harbinger of doom.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan first began writing about sports back in 2011. At the time, his expertise lied in the NBA and NFL. More than one decade, that remains the case. But he's also expanded his catalog to include extensive knowledge and analysis on the NHL, MLB, tennis, NASCAR, college ba...

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