May 24, 2021 3 min read


Legalized Sports Gambling in California Crosses Hurdle, But Time is Running Out

California has had a difficult time introducing any type of expanded gambling, mostly due to resistance from the state’s tribes. However, an effort to bring sports gambling to the state is underway that hopes to find success. A petition that has been circulating to allow a public referendum on sports gambling by California’s tribes has surpassed the number of signatures needed for a vote; however, it won’t be able to move forward unless enough of the signatures can be verified by this Wednesday. The state has just three days to verify another 225,147 names, according to

Tribal Sportsbooks Could Come to California

The petition would allow California’s tribes and its horse race tracks to offer sportsbooks, provided the idea finds approval in a public vote. Pro sports teams and card rooms in the state aren’t included in this particular measure, but are being addressed through a separate endeavor. The tribal sports gambling referendum has received over a million signatures, according to its supporters, with the California Secretary of State having already verified 771,992 of those. Out of the 400,690 yet to be confirmed, state officials need to verify 225,147 to meet the minimum threshold for the petition to proceed.

LA County officials have already confirmed that 75.6% of the 394,699 signatures gathered in the county are legitimate. This is significant since LA is the largest county in the state. 52 counties have turned in their results to the Secretary of State, with an average of 75.2% of the signatures being verified. The counties of Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego and four others have yet to submit their results. At this point, a minimum of 70.8% verification is needed in those first three for the referendum to advance.

Moving the Finish Line

Sports gambling is as controversial in California as it has been in other states. Tribes always want to control the action and, in 2019, 18 of the state’s tribes joined forces to try to suppress expanded gambling. However, the sentiment is changing across the country and, as Florida has shown, it could be possible to introduce a sports gambling market that makes almost everyone happy.

California’s initiative was expected to have cleared the first hurdle, the signature-gathering effort, about a month ago. However, just ahead of the April 22 deadline, LA and San Diego requested an extension as the state grapples with a petition to recall the governor and other issues. A judge, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Laurie M. Earl, extended the deadline to May 26, but no additional allotments are likely to be approved.

Should the referendum advance, California’s tribes would be able to offer sports gambling on their land and would also be able to offer roulette and certain dice games. The Del Mar, Golden Gate Fields, Los Alamitos, and the Santa Anita race tracks would also be able to launch sportsbooks. Cardrooms and professional sports teams, however, would not. Those two latter sectors are being addressed through a separate measure, but that measure is expected to take longer to find approval. It’s possible that the referendum allowing tribes to introduce sports gambling could be voted on this year.


Erik brings his unique writing talents and storytelling flare to cover a wide range of gambling topics. He has written for a number of industry-related publications over the years, providing insight into the constantly evolving world of gaming. A huge sports fan, he especially enjoys football and anything related to sports gambling. Erik is particularly interested in seeing how sports gambling and online gaming are transforming the larger gaming ecosystem.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *