The California gambling industry has exploded over the last few decades as laws and regulations helped grow casinos and card rooms across the state. Despite the two consistently going head-to-head with one another, both serve a valuable purpose in the Golden State gaming industry.
Card rooms became popular after California implemented regulations over them in the 80s and 90s. They began to offer games like Texas Hold ‘Em and Pai Gow. Tribal casinos within the state have had a positive impact on California, growing into an $8 billion industry.
When California passed Proposition 1A, tribal casinos were able to grow exponentially into what they are today. Tribes were able to build Las Vegas like casinos on their land to help improve their local economies as well as the states.
The last thing California needs to legalize is sports betting, which could come soon. There have been intense discussions between lawmakers, casinos, and card rooms on how legalization should happen. If sports betting becomes legal in California, then that could add potentially millions of dollars in revenue to the state.
California has 39.5 people living in the state, and the gambling industry benefits from it. Tribes have over 60 casinos operating in, and card rooms are over 65, so there is no wonder why California has betting laws in place to help grow the industry. The state generates millions in revenue because of it.
Also, this does not include horse racing, the California lottery, charity lottery, and online gambling for the state. Each brings its piece to the table for the state’s industry. However, the two most prominent players are casinos and card rooms. Horse racing is also significant within the state between the tracks and off-track betting sites. Yet, card rooms and casinos have the most significant impact on the state.
|Casino Trust Fund Revenue||Revenue Received YTD||Revenue Received Inception to Date|
|Fourth Quarter 2020||$45,949,477.65||$1,084,347,396.20|
|Third Quarter 2020||$6,043,162.04||$1,044,441,080.59|
|Second Quarter 2020||$102,761,511.67||$1,038,397,918.55|
|First Quarter 2020||$98,766,402.39||$1,034,402,809.27|
|Fourth Quarter 2019||$60,961,187.98||$996,597,594.86|
|Third Quarter 2019||$30,025,230.91||$965,661,637.79|
|Second Quarter 2019||$122,809,426.88||$935,636,406.88|
|First Quarter 2019||$94,129,546.86||$906,956,526.86|
Above is the only public revenue table shared by the California gaming commission. This is the “Indian Gaming Revenue Sharing Trust Fund” a shared fund that is paid into by every single operational casino in California. While the exact revenue is not given for each casino, it is a rather good barometer for how well the casinos are doing. There are several small notes about how much casinos pay as the amount charged is based on the number of slots, machines, the size of the casino, and how long it has been operational.
However, one thing that is clear in the data is that 2020 has had a major impact on the success of the casino industry. This is due to the fact that the pandemic has wiped out California in terms of the ability to vacation. There also have been huge job loss which leads to less disposable income to be used at casinos.
One thing that casinos may look to in the future that could have remedied this is online gaming. However, online gambling is not very likely without a constitutional amendment. This amendment may be coming with the legalization of sports gambling which will hopefully be voted on in 2022.
Casinos in tribal California make up for almost half of all tribal casino revenue in the United States. The industry is one of the biggest in the world and is a major source of income for both the tribes and the California government.
Overall, casinos bring in a large chunk of California revenue. Quarterly reports can be found here. One nice thing about them is they break down each casino’s numbers and give viewers a total at the end. This can be deduced to show people which casinos are bringing in the most revenue each quarter.
Card Room Revenue
Card rooms are a big part of the gaming industry but do not bring in the same numbers as casinos. Unfortunately, California makes it difficult to come up with card room revenues numbers. There have been reports to show the impact that card rooms have on the economy here.
Card rooms create a $2.3 billion impact on the gaming industry while also creating almost 18,000 jobs across the Golden State. Also, the overall effect on the economy is $5.6 billion. This includes industries like agriculture, retail, travel, and more.
Overall, card rooms have brought in $499.8 million in taxes to California. City taxes fall around $100.9 million, and business taxes sit at 498.8 million. Card rooms are not the behemoth tribal casinos are, but they still make their mark in the gaming industry.
Also, card rooms create over 32,000 jobs across the state. These are jobs that have been created by the impact of card rooms. Businesses need help around card rooms as they generate a more economical drive to these towns. This then helps the overall economy from business to restaurants.
There is no doubt that card rooms are a strong number two for California. Again, they are the size of tribal casinos, but they do very well for dealing with laws that are not in their favor. They still generate revenue for the state, along with creating thousands of jobs for Californians.
The fact that card rooms in California can generate $2.3 billion from a limited number of games they can offer is impressive. Also, card rooms have over 65 locations operating in the Golden State. The gaming industry is thriving in California as both card rooms, and tribal casinos generate hundreds of millions of dollars to the state.
Now, California needs the two shareholders to get along. If they can, then that makes this industry flourish that much more. For now, card rooms will continue to take a back seat but do not discredit them for the impact they have in California.
Sports Betting Impact
Sports betting is still in the works for the Golden State. There have been multiple attempts to legalize sports betting. However, no one of the bills gained any traction. Sports betting bills started making their way to the assembly floor starting in 2016. There has been constant pushback from tribal casinos on how sports betting should be regulated.
In the most recent attempt, Senator Bill Dodd proposed sports betting to be allowed at tribal casinos and some major race tracks. However, Dodd was looking to re-write some California gaming laws, which would allow card rooms to have more freedom in the games they allowed. Also, mobile betting was in the bill, which casinos do not want as it would take away from revenue.
In Dodd’s bill, he proposed that sports betting be allowed at casinos and horse tracks. However, horse tracks would not be allowed to use mobile betting for horse races. Also, card rooms would be allowed more freedom in card games they offered like blackjack, and casinos could not file lawsuits against them.
In a way, this would allow everyone to sacrifice a little for a gain. Casinos get sports betting, but can’t go after card rooms. Race tracks also get sports betting, but could not use mobile betting for horse racing. Card rooms get more freedom in games while also keeping casinos off their backs. However, they would not get sports betting.
Tribes showed significant opposition to the bill as it violated California betting laws. The bill was proposed before COVID-19 hit the U.S. and could not resume talks over it, so the bill was dropped in June of 2020.
The tribal casino has its bill implemented as they tried to get it on the November 2020 ballot to go into law. Casinos were looking to get signatures to allow them to put sports betting on the ballot, but COVID-19 stopped them from hitting their goal. However, lawmakers permitted an extension on the petition, which would give casinos extra time to try and get their sports betting bill on the ballot.
Their bill would allow them to have sports betting at the casinos and also major race tracks around the state. Also, mobile betting would not be permitted according to the tribal bill. This would be a huge fight, as mobile betting is generating a significant amount of revenue in multiple states. No mobile betting would allow casinos to generate more revenue at their locations instead of online.
The overall impact on sports betting in California is huge. This is why there is a huge fight over it, and any bill that is about sports betting dies before it gains traction. In a 2017 Oxford study, if California imposed a 15 percent tax on sports betting, the state could see $30 billion wagered annually on sports.
If sports betting were to be done at retail locations with the same tax, then the state would still see $7 billion wagered annually. However, that is a lot smaller of a number for the state if mobile betting is not allowed.
The economic impact on sports betting in the state is too big, not to mention. California will legalize sports betting, but there is no wonder about when that day will be. When California allows sports betting, and the market matures, then it will become one of the biggest revenue boosters to the state.
California Casino FAQ
Can I gamble in California?
Yes, California allows gambling between tribal casinos, card rooms, the California lottery, and horse racing. Each shareholder offers different styles of games to bet on at each location. Gambling regulations in 1984 changed the California gaming landscape, making it a more player-friendly way to bet
What is the difference between cardrooms and tribal casinos?
Cardrooms and tribal casinos offer different kinds of games, and each one can only provide games state laws allow them too. Cardrooms offer more player vs. player games, and tribal casinos offer house vs. player games. The two entities have been separated since March of 2000
What can I gamble on at tribal casinos?
Gamblers at tribal casinos can play games like slots, blackjack, and craps. Tribal casino gaming was expanded after 2000 law changes in favor of their casinos. Since then, tribal casinos in California turned into an $8 billion industry.
What can I gamble on at cardrooms?
Cardroom games are different than tribal, and they offer player vs. player games like Texas Hold ‘Em. However, many cardrooms are always trying to walk to the regulation line by offering games similar to the house vs. player games. Tribal casinos are continually fighting with what game cardrooms offer because they believe cardrooms violate laws often.
Is online gambling legal?
Yes, California offers online gambling in various forms, from casino games to lottery games. Also, people can bet horses online, along with playing online poker, blackjack, and more. Online casino games are still limited due to legislation. This could take years before California has a variety of online games to choose from
Is sports betting legal?
No, sports betting is not legal in California. Battles between cardrooms and tribal casinos have prevented sports betting to become legal in recent years. Right now, it is likely that sports betting will be on the 2022 ballot and will be legal as early as 2023
Is horse racing available in California?
Yes, horse racing is legal. Players can gamble at race tracks throughout the State of California. In 2018, horse racing saw $3.2 billion wagered on events. Also, horse racing has been in California since 1993
Will Commercial Casinos Open in California?
The answer is most likely no. Indian casinos have an incredible stronghold on the California gaming history, and will most likely keep lawmakers from forming regulations around commercial casinos within the State. Plus, tribal casinos bring in $8 billion in annual revenue, and there is no point in fixing something that is not broken.