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Is Online Gambling Heating Up in California?

October 22, 2019

As one state after another moves forward to legalize online sports gambling, online casino gambling or both, the largest domino in the box is likely California. With over 40,000,000 residents and an economy that would rank 5th in the world on its own, there's a number of gambling interests that would love to see California bite on some form of online gambling. Th thought process goes that a breakthrough in any area, poker, sports or casino, would open the doors to the others.

Unfortunately, it remains a fleeting notion to believe the California legislature will pass the required legislation at any point in the future. Right now, there's a push to legalize both online poker and sports betting. That push is coming up empty due in large part to the unwillingness of the state's power-brokers to share in what they have already secured as far as gambling revenue and profits.

The aforementioned power-brokers include the state's Tribal casinos, race tracks and card rooms. The Tribal organizations seem to wielding the most power right now. With more than $8 billion in gambling revenues coming in each year, there's very little incentive to share the pie. The argument is authorizing any new form of gambling will not create new gamblers and revenue. Instead, any new forms of gambling would only serve to savage what's already in the marketplace.

This position has evolved from a position of power. At a time when online poker and sports gambling seemed nothing more than a passing notion, the Tribal leaders were able to secure strong exclusive contracts with state legislators. The acceptance of any new forms of gambling competition would require a reworking of established agreements, something tribal leaders are not interested in doing.

Dealing With Nevada Lobbyists

There's also a lot of pressure coming from lobbyists out of Nevada. With the New Jersey, Indiana and Pennsylvania online gambling markets growing at break neck speed, Las Vegas is already feeling the pinch on its legacy as the sports betting capital of the world. If anyone truly believes Las Vegas will give up its access to California gamblers without a fight, they don't understand how deeply enriched the California gambling market is in Nevada culture.

For what it's worth, Assemblyman Adam Gray and state Sen. Bill Dodd introduced an amended sports betting bill in their respective chambers last June. It's likely a long shot the bill will produce anything positive for California sports gamblers, but we'll all know more by sometime in November.


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