Hoping to legally bet on sports in California? Well, we've got some bad news for you. That's not happening anytime soon. Both California sports betting initiatives have officially failed on the heels of the 2022 November primaries.
Granted, the results of Tuesday's elections are not technically finalized. They can still change in the coming days. But every major news outlet is reporting that the two California sports betting initiatives, Proposition 26 and Proposition 27, have failed to pass...and that it wasn't even sort of close.
This isn't entirely unsurprising. People all throughout California and the rest of the United States were bracing for this result for some time. Hope invariably reached rock bottom when California governor Gavin Newsom publicly opposed online sports betting just a couple of weeks before the November elections. Even so, optimists had crossed their fingers for one of the bills to pass anyway. After all, multiple polls showed that voters generally approved of legal California sports betting in some form.
So, where did it all go wrong for California sports betting? And what's next for the future of sports betting in California? And equally important: What are your options in the interim if you live in California and want to bet on sports?
At a time when it seems like there are more questions than answers, we're here to try providing the latter.
California Sports Betting Initiatives Proved to be Their Own Worst Enemy
In the end, it seems like the California sports betting initiatives suffered from incurable self-sabotage. Indeed, the fact that there were two separate California sports betting bills appeared to confuse voters. There was Prop 26, which legalized in-person sports betting on tribal grounds alone. And then there was Prop 27, which would have legalized online sports betting throughout California, in addition to green lighting it at tribal casinos.
This all sounds straightforward enough. It ultimately wasn't. The messaging coming out of both camps was unnecessarily convoluted. Public campaigning for Prop 27, as an example, focused on how it would allocate a certain amount of online sports betting profits toward fighting homelessness. It failed to mention, however, that it wouldn't set up actual programs with that money. This became a point of contention for Prop 26 supporters as they attempted to discredit their rival bill.
Not coincidentally, this brings us to what became the death knell for both California sports betting initiatives: They overexposed voters to their very public battle.
According to research conducted by The Washington Post, supporters of Prop 26 ended up raising $176.1 million. Around $132.3 million of that was spent directly on campaigns in favor of Prop 26. The other $43.8 million was spent on attempting to impugn Prop 27. Meanwhile, supporters of the legal online sports betting bill (Prop 27), raised a total of $418.8 million. About $169.4 million went towards messaging for Prop 27 itself. The other $249.4 million went toward fighting Prop 26.
For those keeping score at home, this amounts to a total of $594.6 million raised and spent for both parties. And in Proposition 27's case, more than two-thirds of their money went toward fighting against their opponent. That is a wild development to consider. And it ultimately cost everyone involved. Multiple polls leading into Tuesday's elections showed that the very public back and forth between the two camps left voters feeling contempt for both of the California sports betting initiatives. Had Prop 26 and Prop 27 focused solely on clearly and succinctly conveying their messages, one of them might have actually emerged victorious. Instead, both measures demonstrably failed.
What Does the Future of California Sports Betting Look Like?
Realistically, it's too early to tell what happens next with the future of sports betting in California. The months to come will be spent figuring out which aspects of each proposition resonated and which outright flopped. There will then be new sports betting legislation proposed down the line.
We don't yet know what the new proposals will look like. We also don't know how many there will be. The California House of Representatives and Senate would do well to ensure there's only one option next time around. However, because the chasm separating Prop 26 and Prop 27 supporters is so massive, there's no guarantee that can happen.
What's more, it doesn't matter what the next round of California sports betting initiatives looks like. Regardless of when they're constructed and potentially approved, it must still be put to another state-wide vote. And that's not scheduled to happen until 2024.
California Sports Betting Alternatives to Explore
California sports bettors in search of silver linings may be down in the dumps right now. We get it. There's no end in sight to this debate.
Luckily, though, Californians do have alternatives at their disposal.
For one, they can sign up at almost any of the sites that appear in our reviews of the top online sportsbooks. Most of them currently allow nearly anyone in the United States to create an account. Californians can also travel to the increasing number of states nearby that have already legalized sports betting.
Eventually, of course, the hope is that people in California won't have to leave the state to legally place sports bets. But at the moment, the soonest that can happen is sometime in 2025 or 2026, depending on how long any 2024 approval takes to roll out.
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: