June 18, 2018 by

Many Interests in S. California oppose Online Gambling

Most of the news about the nascent renewal of the online casino market in the United States seems to come from a small handful of states: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Michigan, Connecticut, and New York, all of which are on the east coast or close to it.  So, it comes as a bit of a surprise to find in the news that many people in southern California are questioning whether allowing online casino gambling there would be a good thing.


Online casinos enjoy widespread popularity wherever they are allowed to flourish.  They offer convenience, comfort, a nearly unlimited number of games, no travel costs or costs ancillary to travel such as hotels, restaurants, tips, shows, and so on.  They constantly offer lucrative casino bonuses to help players grow their bankroll.  Because of lower operating costs, online casinos can return a higher percentage of bets made to the players than land based casinos can return.

So, what is the objection many residents of southern California feel toward online casinos?

State Government

The United States is made up of 50 ostensibly sovereign states.  The central government has long taken over many areas that were once the exclusive province of the states but has still left gambling laws and regulation in the hands of the states.

California is one of the biggest states in the union, exceeded in geographical size only by Alaska and Texas but it has by far the largest population.  So, statewide agreement on political issues is hard to come by.

California has tried to regulate casino gambling through the state legislature in the past but has met with opposition by two very powerful forces in the gambling arena: those opposed to gambling g at all and Native American tribes that operate legal land based casinos through complex laws and agreements that stem from the latter part of the last century.

Opponents of Gambling

Some of the opposition to online gambling comes from people who would like all gambling made illegal.  These are primarily fundamentalist Christians although they have many allies in the religious Islamic and Jewish camps.  Southern California is both very progressive politically and can be very conservative as well.  So, gambling is seen in large communities in the area as being very bad for the individuals involved and for the general society as a whole.

Native American Gambling Interests

In 1979, the Seminole Indians of Florida began offering bingo at land based sites.  They won the right to do so in court and the federal government passed a regulation that allowed any tribe and any state to establish “compacts” that would regulate land based casinos run by the Native American tribes.

Today some 300 tribes operate casinos in about 30 of the 50 American states.  The Native American tribes oppose any new wrinkle in gambling law that might threaten their sometimes monopolies in land based casinos in a state.

In California, there are 73 Tribal-State Gambling Compacts as they are called.  The Native Americans run 63 land based casinos with more always in the development process.  These powerful land based gambling interests always oppose any new laws that might threaten their bottom line.

Online Benefits Land Based

There is a great deal of existential evidence that a well-regulated online casino milieu benefits land based casinos as well.  Online casinos simply don’t reduce the overall amount of money wagered at online games.  It increases casino gambling in general and actually whets the appetite of new casino gamers, who began playing casino games online, to travel to a land based casino because these casinos offer a kind of exhilaration that online casinos cannot offer.

Land based casinos have sights and sounds that you can’t hear or see when you play online.   This is the upside of allowing online casinos: they bring people who never went to a land based casino!

Poker and Blackjack

Many players who were too unsure of themselves to play these intellectual games at land based casinos have found that by playing for many hours of online gambling entertainment, they have actually developed the confidence to play at land based casinos with other people or, in the case of poker, against other people.

There aren’t exact numbers of how many people have become devotees of land based casinos as a result of their playing online, but the large number of massive casino-hotel edifices being built not only in Las Vegas or Atlantic City but in out of the way places as well hints to the reality that online casino gambling is a net boon to land based casinos.

The Future of Gambling in California

The sheer size of the state and the history of laws dying in committee in the state legislature mean that Southern California may be allowed to set up its own regulations for online casinos.

The ever-present opposition to gambling by religious communities will never recede but the opposition of Native American gambling interests may be led to understand that online casinos, if they are run properly, could actually increase traffic to their land based casinos.

California is also reeling from tax shortfalls.  The federal government has its own budgetary problems and President Trump is in no hurry to subsidize state spending.  So California will have to find new sources of revenue and proper regulation of both land based and online casinos may be the next big wave of sources for state revenue.

The Native American tribes that run so many casinos in California also claim that their compacts with the state include sports betting.  Although sports betting was illegal in California when the compacts were reached, the tribes claim that the wording includes all “games” which would include betting on sports games even as it includes betting on slots games or blackjack games.

In short, the legal situation surrounding innovations in gambling in California is murky at best and highly contentious at worst.