For a long time Nevada was the lone U.S. state where sports betting was legal. Then, in 2018, the Supreme Court legalized the industry, and a year later, New Jersey supplanted Nevada as the country’s sports betting capital. It took upwards of $2.9 billion in sports bets in that 12-month span alone, resulting in $200 million in revenue for multiple sports books.
While New Jersey might be the king of U.S. sports betting for now, there are other states that could one day take that crown in future. In particular the state of California, as it is home to some of the largest sports franchises in the USA.
The makings of a sports betting capital
California no doubt has the makings of a sports betting capital. The sheer size of California’s massive population alone makes it a premium sports betting market. As of July 2019, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates the population of California to be 39,512,223. That number is over 4 times more than the population of New Jersey (8,882,190) and 13 times more than that of Nevada (3,080,156).
That is a massive market — and one with a longstanding sports culture. Evidence of this love affair are the various sports team all across the state, including the Padres and Gulls of San Diego; the Kings of Sacramento; the Warriors of Golden State; the Lakers, Clippers, Angels, Rams, Chargers, and Dodgers of Los Angeles, and the 49ers of San Francisco. That’s not to mention all the California-based teams in college sports, like the San Diego State Aztecs, the UCLA Bruins, and the Fresno State Bulldogs. The state even has teams like the San Diego Enforcers, who play sports for charitable causes.
California’s combination of a big population with the number of sports franchises in the state makes it ready to become America’s next sports betting capital.
Up for a vote
But before that can happen, California will have to legalize sports betting first. The problem with this though is that some sectors are pushing back on any legalization. Sandlot Games details how all gaming in California is currently controlled by Native American tribes, and that the move towards legalization will likely entail a referendum on the state’s constitution. All stakeholders — state officials, card room owners, and the aforementioned tribes — will have to agree to it, and that might prove challenging. A report by Fox 40 on this possible referendum notes that not all tribes want sports betting legalized, mainly because they don’t want any competition to their own casino industry.
But this reluctance might be thawing. Steve Stallings, chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, told the San Francisco Chronicle late last year that the tribes are actually open to expansion, but not the kind “that would jeopardize tribes’ exclusivity [to offer casino games].” Stallings’ pronouncement means the legalization of sports betting in California is one step closer to happening. The next step will likely be in November 2020, when the referendum will take place. Should Californians vote “Yes,” expect California to quickly take on New Jersey and Nevada for the title of Sports Betting Capital of America.
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