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Your guide to sports betting and everything else to know about gambling in California

Betting odds are displayed at a hotel casino in Las Vegas.
John Locher
AP Photo
Betting odds are displayed at a hotel casino in Las Vegas.

In California, you can bet on a horse race, buy a lottery ticket, put money on poker in a card room and play slots at a tribal casino all in the same – potentially expensive – day.

Nevada, right next door, is undoubtedly the national capital of all things gambling. But after Nevada, California has the most slot machines of any state – one measure of the state’s betting industry.

The gambling industry, like many, took a hit during the pandemic. Nationally, commercial gaming revenue after winnings shrank by more than 25% between 2019 and 2020. Then, in 2021, it came roaring back – even faster than the rest of the economy – and brought in more money than any previous year. Tribal casinos also had a record breaking year in 2021.

During this year’s November election, Californians will decide whether they want to expand gambling further and allow sports betting. A pitched battle between gaming companies, tribes, card rooms, and others has broken campaign cash records and has landed two separate initiatives to legalize sports betting on the ballot.

Here’s what you need to know about gambling in California.

CalMatters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.