Can You Legally Bet on Sports If You Live in California?

California and sports Betting

California is sitting on the most lucrative sports betting market in America. It features 39.5 million residents along with an economy that’s worth $3.2 trillion.

Unlike many other states, though, California has yet to make a serious move towards regulating sports gambling. In fact, it seems years away from doing so.

Given that the Golden State doesn’t have a regulated market, you might wonder if it’s legal to bet on sports in California. The following post provides an answer on this matter and discusses the intricacies of CA sports gambling.

What Is California’s Current Stance on Sports Betting?

Sports gambling is currently illegal in the Golden State. No sportsbook currently holds licensing with the California Gambling Control Commission or any other state-run regulatory body.

Many Californians who want a sports betting excursion visit Reno or Las Vegas. They also place bets at offshore sportsbooks.

The latter are betting sites that are licensed in other countries, such as Belize or Costa Rica. They don’t, however, hold licensing within California.

Nevertheless, these bookmakers still feel comfortable offering online sports betting to the Golden State. After all, no California law currently addresses internet gambling.

One excerpt of the state constitution does ban using a “machine, contrivance, appliance, or mechanical device” to bet with. However, offshore bookmakers don’t see this as a concrete stance against online gambling.

Will You Get Arrested for Making Sports Bets in California?

You stand almost no chance of being arrested for betting on sports in the Golden State. This is especially true if you’re wagering at online sportsbooks.

As mentioned before, California doesn’t discuss online sports betting in its constitution. It also has never arrested anybody for making internet sports wagers.

Even if you were the first to be arrested for this activity, you’d get a slap on the wrist. Those caught placing illegal wagers pay a $50 fine on each of their first two violations.

This state hasn’t even made any serious attempts to stop offshore sportsbooks. Therefore, it doesn’t seem overly concerned with the matter.


You could potentially be arrested if you’re gambling with an underground sports betting ring in California. No state permits anybody to run an unlawful sportsbook within their borders.

Assuming you’re just placing bets through the ring, though, you might still not get arrested. Law enforcement would mainly be concerned with those who are running the operation.

Long story short, you can feel pretty comfortable with placing sports bets in the Golden State. You should be fine so long as you don’t visit the local police station and brag about your illegal wagers.

Why Hasn’t the State Regulated Sports Gambling?

The Golden State currently has multiple gaming interests battling over who has the right to offer sportsbooks. Card rooms, race tracks, and tribal casinos all want a piece of the action.

California’s tribes have a compact with the state to exclusively offer traditional casinos. They pay lots of money for this exclusive access and have a large say in the state’s gambling market.

Furthermore, tribes don’t want the status quo to change much. They already make major revenue through their casinos. As a result, the tribes want exclusive rights to sports betting or no sports gambling at all.

Of course, the race tracks and card rooms aren’t happy with this proposed deal. Both entities want a share of the action too.

Congress, meanwhile, can propose bills to roll out sports gambling. However, the voters must pass a referendum to make betting a reality. The tribes must also approve of any such constitutional amendment to avoid a big legal battle.

When Will California Legalize Sports Betting?

Politicians in the Golden State fully realize how lucrative sports gambling can be. Unlike many other states, though, they don’t directly have the ability to legalize it.

Instead, they need to keep tribal gaming interest in mind. The card clubs and race tracks also have a say in the matter.

That said, any predictions on when sports betting will be legal in California are hard to come by. Given the lack of progress, the timeframe could be at least 5 years from now.

Politicians must propose legislation that all sides like. The tribes will especially need to approve of any sports gambling bill.


The next hurdle involves a state referendum. Californians would strongly consider any legitimate bill given the potential tax revenue at stake. Everything hinges upon an agreeable bill been pushed through. Again, it’s extremely hard to predict when such legislation will become available.

At the time of this writing, Californians will vote on a bill to legalize sports betting in November 2022. This constitutional amendment, which is supported by 18 tribes, would allow sports wagering at racetracks and tribal casinos.

Card rooms would be left out of the equation. They’re spending millions of dollars lobbying against the referendum.

Additionally, the California Coalition Against Gambling Expansion is also lobbying against the efforts. The opposition will do their best to convince voters not to approve the tribal-led efforts to approve sports gambling.

Tips for Wagering on Sports in California

You may not be able to wager at regulated California sportsbooks yet. Nevertheless, you can still place wagers with offshore sportsbooks. Below, you can see some tips for safely wagering at these sites.

Read Plenty of Reviews

The average offshore sportsbook isn’t shady by nature. Nevertheless, you want to ensure that you’re dealing with a reputable betting site.

After all, many offshore bookmakers operate in lax licensing jurisdictions. Some of them abuse the more-lenient standards and don’t serve customers well.

From an overall perspective, you simply want to find the best online sportsbooks available. Reviews will point you in the right direction. They cover important topics like bonuses, banking options, customer support, odds, and markets.

Pay Special Attention to a Sportsbook’s Reputation

When reading reviews or looking up any other information on a sportsbook, you want to especially focus on reputation. A betting site’s reputation indicates how well they’ll treat you.

Some bookmakers have poor customer service and/or don’t make timely payouts. The slow payouts are especially problematic because they can indicate that, eventually, you won’t get paid.

Alternatively, you’re more likely to have a good experience at betting sites with quality reputations. If any issues arise, you can look forward to them being resolved quickly and satisfactory.

Look for Sports Betting Bonuses

Most online sportsbooks offer welcome bonuses. They may provide a free bet, risk-free bet, or deposit bonus upfront.


You just need to make a deposit and use the correct bonus code to start qualifying. Afterward, you’ll need to meet terms and conditions before cashing out money from the bonus.

Rollover is particularly important among the terms and conditions. It refers to how much you’ll need to wager before withdrawing winnings.

Come Up with a Smart Bankroll Management Plan

Whether in California or anywhere else, the biggest mistake that online sports bettors make is improper bankroll management. They lose all of their money too quickly because they don’t have a plan.

This mistake isn’t necessarily a doomsday scenario when one only risks money they can afford to lose. However, it becomes a huge problem when a gambler wagers money that’s meant for bills.

You can avoid falling into the same trap by developing a bankroll management plan. A simple way to manage your funds involves only risking 1% to 3% of your roll on a single wager.

Here’s an example on how you can do this:

  • You have a bankroll worth $1,000.
  • You want to keep your wagers worth between 1% and 3% of your bankroll.
  • 1,000 x 0.01 = 10
  • 1,000 x 0.03 = 30
  • All of your bets will be worth between $10 and $30.


California hasn’t taken a major stand for or against sports betting. Currently, state politicians and gaming interests can’t agree on how to move forward.

As a result, offshore betting sites currently serve Californians. You can place wagers at offshore sportsbooks with no legal worries.

The key, though, is to realize that these betting sites aren’t regulated. You won’t be protected by California law if anything goes wrong.

That said, you definitely want to thoroughly research any online sportsbook before depositing. This research will help you choose a trustworthy site and have a fun sports betting experience.

Jim Beviglia
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About Jim Beviglia
Jim Beviglia has been a gambling writer at since 2018. During that time, he’s written just about every type of article related to gambling, including reviews of betting sites, guides to popular casino games, betting tips on both casino and sports betting, sports and casino blog posts, and game picks. In addition to online gambling, one of Jim’s other major interests is music. He has been doing freelance work for various music sites and magazines for two decades. Among his outlets past and present are American Songwriter, VinylMePlease, Treble, and The Bluegrass Situation. Jim has also written five books on music that were published by Rowman & Littlefield.