At first consideration, California sports betting seems like a no-brainer. The state skews liberal, like many others that have legalized sports gambling, and it is also one of the largest tourist hubs in the country, drawing in more than 40 million visitors in the average year.
Oh, and then there's the little fact that California has more professional and collegiate sports teams than any other place in the United States. Legal sports betting would, without question, be a lucrative hit. Guaranteed. The revenue stream would be absurd. And that's why California is facing increased pressure to legalize sports betting in 2022.
The question, of course, is the same as it's always been: Will this increased pressure matter?
The Future of Sports Betting in California
Numerous sports betting bills have been proposed by various governors in California over the years. None of them have proven fully successful. The latest push is an amendment that would allow betting outside of only tribal casinos, a proposal that will appear on the state's next major ballot...in November 2022.
As of now, it isn't quite clear whether this attempt will be any different from the others. Tribal casinos are already lobbying for current protocols to stay the same, and California has yet to budge on their sports-betting laws despite allowing select forms of daily fantasy sports betting.
Why is California Facing More Pressure to Legalize Sports Betting
However, those intent on finding silver linings in the push for legal sports betting have pointed to the uptick in financial pressure currently burdening the entire state.
Experts have said that California is at a budget deficit of around $54 billion as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. And given the rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the United States, there's a chance that deficit continues to climb.
Legalizing sports betting is a means of bridging the gap. Onset projections have California raking in more than $280 million after the first six months of legalized sports betting. And many see that number ascending to around $503 million as the sports-betting market matures.
Based on this forecast, California would eventually be punting on more than $1 billion in total revenue per year by continuing to limit access to online sports betting. Can they really afford to do that?
Why Won't California Just Legalize Sports Betting Then?
Opponents of sports betting in California seem to believe the initial revenue projections are inflated. They will, in turn, point to other cases of online sports betting being legal in the USA. Places like Illinois have fallen well short of their profit forecasts since opening the sports-betting doors.
Still, this logic isn't the strongest.
States that legalized sports betting during the height of the coronavirus pandemic were at an inherent disadvantage if those revenue projections were made beforehand. They also were not prepared to cater predominantly to online sports betting; the entire idea was to open up brick-and-mortar establishments and erect pop-up betting operations and kiosks at sporting venues.
California shouldn't face the same challenges. Their projections are based on tourist and residential numbers from years already impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and they will know to place an emphasis on online betting presences when licensing potential sportsbooks. That's a huge win right there.
It likewise helps that sporting-venues have reopened their doors. Arenas aren't at full capacity, even if they allow it, but there is still foot traffic at games. Sports-betting kiosks within stadiums and arenas will be far from a complete zero if and when California implements it.
When will California Legalize Sports Betting?
First and foremost, this may be the wrong question. Legal sports betting in California is still a matter of "if" and not just "when."
But let's go ahead and assume it happens. Should you aggressively be perusing reviews of the top online sportsbooks in preparation of placing your wagers sometime in 2022? If we're being honest, probably not.
Remember: California isn't set to vote on the legalization of sports betting, again, until November. That's the end of 2022. If California were going to roll out legal sports betting before the end of the year, they'd have less than two months to start and begin the entire process. That's unrealistic. It takes time to review applications for licenses, approve them, oversee the companies you are licensing and then actually get physical betting locations and online sports betting sites up and running.
And this presumes the latest sports-betting amendment even passes. There are no assurances. It could get voted or be pushed back and tabled, like it already has a couple of times before. While we hate to be the bearer of bad news for prospective sports bettors, we have to be realistic. And realistically, without material and unprecedented changes in stance and process, legal sports betting won't be coming to California before 2023.
Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can try to find one that will accept your bets until California legalizes sports betting: