UNITED STATES—While mobile sports betting may have finally limped across the finish line in New York this month, if experts are to be believed, California shouldn’t raise its expectations very high in this regard.

Looking at it closely, and going by what all prominent players and bookmakers have to say, legalized online sports betting in CA cannot be expected to come to fruition for at least the next 5 to 10 years. This has also been confirmed by the panelists who took part in a tribal gaming webinar ran by IGB recently.

What’s up with sports betting in the Golden State?

Multiple legislative efforts for the legalization of mobile sports betting in the Golden State fizzled out in 2020, particularly because of strong opposition from the tribal entities. However, there’s a good chance that California voters may still get a say in deciding on sports betting in 2021.

As per James Siva, Chairperson, California Nations Indian Gaming Association, the tribes managed to gather sufficient number of signatures towards a sports betting ballot initiative. All those signatures were being verified at the time of writing this piece.

Once the verification is complete, the question will reach the ballot in case Californians vote on the possibility of recalling Governor Gavin Newsom this year. Else, there will be a long wait for the ballot initiative, at least until the 2022 midterms.

Initiative incomparable to sports betting in New York

The initiative that we referred to above is titled, ‘California Sports Wagering Regulation and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act’. The purpose of it is legalization of California sports books situated at the existing horse racetracks and tribal casino establishments. What is crucial is that if things go as planned, the sports betting activity will stay limited to retail operations only in CA. And continue that way until the tribes are prepared to go online.

James Siva expressed his apprehensions regarding online betting by stating that instantly moving to mobile/online space may be disadvantageous for many tribes as they will not be able to find partners so quickly and easily. However, he seemed to agree that sports betting cannot be kept entirely off-line for an indefinite time period. Rather, he spoke about a possible ramp-up program for the off-line betting operators over the next 5 to 10 years.

He further added that the initial phase of legalizing brick-and-mortar sports betting activities will enable the tribes to figure out the best ways of engaging with the activity, and locate the best partners for their requirements. It’s worth noting that California presently has over 100 tribes, a number which is much higher than the possible sports betting partners in the online domain.

Not a good idea to challenge the CA tribes

Speaking on the same lines, the conference chairperson of National Indian Gaming Association, Victor Rocha, stressed that it would be impossible for California lawmakers to legalise mobile sports betting without the support of tribal entities.

Chairman, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, CT, Rodney Butler agreed that passing of the New York’s mobile sports betting bill hasn’t been a good development for the tribes.

In other words, anyone waiting for legalised mobile sports betting in California, will need to wait a bit longer.