California Sports Betting Bill Introduced

February 9, 2013
California Sports Betting Bill Introduced

California State Senator Roderick Wright has introduced a sports betting bill in the California Senate.  This bill would legalize betting on all professional sports and most college sports.  The only exclusion would be college sports that are either played within the state or out of state contests that involve California schools.  Senator Wright introduced a similar bill in the 2012 legislature but it failed to gain any traction.

The bill would allow any company that is already involved in gambling within the state to offer sports betting.  This includes commercial card clubs, tribal casinos, racetracks and online horse betting companies.  The online angle is interesting.  A large sports exchange company named Betfair owns TVG, which is the largest online horse race wagering website.  By including this type of business, Betfair would be suitable to get involved in California sports betting.  Betfair has a clean slate in the US as they never accepted American players, but their reputation has taken a beating in the rest of the world in recent years.

All sports bettors would have to make their wagers in person.  There would be no internet sports betting allowed under this bill.

Sports betting would not immediately go into effect if it passed unless the New Jersey sports gambling case with the major sports leagues and the Department of Justice has been resolved in New Jersey’s favor.  This bill specifically states that sports betting must be permitted under federal law to go live.  It does not instruct the state’s Attorney General to fight the federal government on the issue.  Senator Wright simply wants the law on the books so that they can immediately license sports books should New Jersey prevail or the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act is repealed.

Senator Wright has labeled this bill an urgency statute.  This means it will require a two-thirds majority to pass.  It would also become law immediately after being signed by the governor (though remain dormant if federal law forbids sports betting in California) if it were to pass both houses.

This is not the first gambling expansion bill that Senator Wright has sponsored.  He is also one of the sponsors of the state’s online poker bill for a second year.  Like the sports betting bill, online poker also failed to pass in 2012.

Nevada Casinos Watching Closely

Nevada casinos are particularly interested in whether California passes sports betting.  Most Nevada casino companies do not have properties in California as most gaming is on tribal land.  Nearly one quarter of all visitors to Las Vegas, and an even higher percentage of Reno visitors, are from California.  Sports betting is one of the draws that entice Californians to make the trip to Nevada.  Losing this draw would affect more than just the sports book handle.  It could cause a drop in hotel occupancy and other non gaming revenue.

Will NFL Take Notice?

The NFL and other sports leagues are fighting New Jersey on their right to offer sports betting.  At the same time, it appears that the league is hoping to move a franchise to Los Angeles.  If that is the case, then this may cause a problem as the NFL is opposed to teams playing where sports betting is legal.  If New Jersey wins the sports betting case, both the New York Giants and New York Jets will play in a state where sports betting is legal.  These teams play in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

It is possible that the NFL could give up their fight against sports betting if they lose in New Jersey.  If they do not give up the fight, then this may cause issues with a team moving to the L.A. area, though it would appear the most likely teams to relocate are already in California.  Both the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers have hinted that they may be interested in moving there.

A full copy of Senate Bill 190 may be found here.

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