Commercial Sportsbooks Remain Committed to Entering California Online Betting Market

Commercial Sportsbooks Remain Committed to Entering California Online Betting Market

Failure to legalize sports betting in California during this past election has not discouraged invested parties from eventually cracking the United States' largest projected gambling market. On the contrary, commercial sportsbooks remain committed to legalizing the California online betting scene in the near future.

This isn't groundbreaking on its face. The California online sports betting market is already worth over $1 billion per year when considering how much people spend on off-shore sportsbooks. Legalizing it ensures much of that money would run through state-sanctioned channels while also making it more accessible for additional people to start gambling on sports.

Still, the results from the 2022 election left much to consider. Both of the California sports betting initiatives failed at the polls. And what's more, neither one of them came particularly close to passing. Proposition 26, which legalized on-site betting for tribal casinos, had a 67 percent disapproval rating. And the California online sports betting proposal fared even worse. Proposition 27, which legalized all forms of sports betting, had an 82 percent disapproval rating.

The California voters spoke—and they were loud. They did not support the initiatives laid out in front of them. Yet, while a disapproval rating of 82 percent for the commercial sportsbook proposal could be seen as a deterrent, the companies who backed it already seem to be plotting their next move.

DraftKings, BetMGM and FanDuel Still Hope to Legalize California Online Sports Betting

Between Proposition 26 and 27, California sports betting initiatives became the most expensively financed ballot campaign in the history of the United States. The two sides spent well over half a billion dollars to get across their message and to debunk their competing bill.

That is a lot of money. But the amount starts to make sense when you consider who was involved. Commercial online sportsbooks like DraftKings, BetMGM and FanDuel were the primary backers of Proposition 27. Together, they have near-bottomless pockets. Though this money wasn't necessarily a drop in the bucket to them, it was merely seen as the cost of doing business.

Nevertheless, experts throughout the industry openly wondered whether that opportunity cost was too steep. Would the commercial sportsbooks perhaps sit out the next round of legislative sessions and try to enter the California online betting market after on-site wagering was legal for a while? The folks over at CalMatters.org reached out to FanDuel, BetMGM and DraftKings to ask this very question. The trio sent back a joint response.

“Our coalition knew that passing Prop 27 would be an uphill climb, and we remain committed to California,” Nathan Click, a spokesperson for the campaign, said shortly after the measure was voted down.. “This campaign has underscored our resolve to see California follow more than half the country in legalizing safe and responsible online sports betting.”

This amounts to doubling down after already spending hundreds of millions of dollars. That's pretty gutsy. It also makes sense. Commercial sportsbooks wouldn't blow half a billion dollars attempting to legalize California online sports betting only to just give up. They are clearly invested in gaining entry into what's already a booming sports betting market.

How Can Commercial Sportsbooks Win the Next Round of Sports Betting Proposals?

Moving forward, the question isn't "Will commercial sportsbooks fight to get California online betting?" It's "How can they successfully make that happen?"

Representatives for the tribal-backed bill (Prop 26) will be quick to say it isn't happening. Many viewed the dual-failure of Prop 26 and Prop 27 as a victory for the former. Sure, on-site tribal sports betting remains illegal. But they still successfully prevented California from bringing in out-of-state competition.

This logic isn't airtight. Supporters of Prop 26 did help derail Prop 27. But that doesn't mean commercial sportsbooks are dead where they stand. Polls conducted earlier this year showed that Californians at one point generally endorsed online sports betting.

Since then, however, many voters have cited fatigue with both campaigns. The makers of Prop 26 and Prop 27 inundated the public with constant messaging. They were pointing out the strengths of their own proposal. Or they were criticizing the other bill. It became exhausting. And according to CaliforniaMatters.org, newer polls show that overexposure to advertising and counter-promotions grated on voters.

Commercial sportsbooks have to start there next time around. They need to control and centralize their messaging so that it's neither overwhelming nor annoying. They also need to clarify it. Prop 27 tried to portray itself as the "Fighting Homelessness" bill when it was never really that. Steps such as this are simple, but they matter. Prop 27 wouldn't have failed so spectacularly if they didn't.

What Does the Future Hold for California Online Sports Betting?

Immediately, the future of California online sports betting doesn't exist. The state cannot realistically legalize it before 2024, which would mean it probably won't rollout until 2025.

For the foreseeable future, Californians should still look to sign up with one of the best online sportsbooks that'll allow them to make an account. Failing that, they have years of waiting in front of them before other online betting avenues open up.

Mind you, this assumes the commercial sportsbooks are more successful next time. There's no guarantee they will be. They just dropped half a billion dollars and still couldn't finish with a 20 percent approval rating. California sports betting is inevitable. That much we know. It's too lucrative not to be. But there's a chance the initial rollout of California sports betting won't include an online option.

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

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan is a sports betting writer who can tackle any topic from presidential elections to changes in the sports betting legislation federally and on the state level. He also writes picks for NFL.