Will California’s Vaccination Requirements Have Impact on Sports Betting?

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage on throughout the United States, certain places are beginning to take precautions against becoming potential super-spreader hosts. While these decisions have largely been up to venues and organizations until now—like the Las Vegas Raiders of the NFL require proof of the COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours of their home games—California is among the first to implement a statewide stance on the matter.

The precedent this sets could have huge implications on the large-gathering landscape, with an emphasis on sporting events. But will California’s vaccination requirements actually have an impact on sports betting?

California Requiring Proof of Vaccination or Negative COVID-19 Tests Prior to Attending Large-Scale Events

If you want to attend an indoor event in California, it turns out you’ll need to adhere to some new guidelines.

Beginning September 20, the entire state will require you to show proof of the COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test delivered within the previous 72 hours if you’re going to be admitted into an indoor event that is hosting more than 1,000 people. This seems like a groundbreaking position to hold because that’s exactly what it is. Officials in California say that this is the first measure of its kind throughout the entire United States.

At present, the state has these same guidelines implemented for indoor events of 5,000 people or more. Adjusting it to the 1,000-patron threshold is a response to the growing number of cases triggered by the Delta variant, as well as the uptick in COVID-19-related hospitalizations among those who have not yet received the vaccine.

Sports events that are held outdoors will be up against looser restrictions. Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test will be required for all outdoor events that include 10,000 or more people, a significant difference that will nonetheless be relevant if teams wish to pack NFL and college football games.

While these requirements are, in fact, new at the state-wide level, they are an extension of many venue- and sport-specific measures already in place. Select stadiums and teams will be checking fans for vaccination or negative-test paper work in the coming months, regardless of their own state’s position. This is an issue that has mounted in popularity with the NFL and college football seasons approaching, as well as the imminent return of the NHL and NBA, the latter two of which take place indoors.

Will California’s COVID-19 Requirements Impact Sports Betting?

In short, California’s new COVID-19 restrictions and requirements for sporting events will have little to no impact on sports bettors. This is because sports betting isn’t yet legal throughout the state of California.

Recent legislature has been proposed, with the expectation that’ll eventually pass, but the state doesn’t currently sanction it. Any gambling that is taking place happens offshore and online and should, therefore, be unaffected. That being said, the new restrictions could potentially throw a wrench in the proposed bill that would legalize sports betting in California by 2022.

See, this topic has already been tabled and pushed back a bunch by the local government. In recent months, that has to do with larger concerns, like the coronavirus pandemic. Over the longer term, there have been many attempts to block the sports gambling green light from tribal casinos, who currently have a monopoly on betting.

Though the latter remains an issue, it is an increasingly softer one. But the rise in concern for the coronavirus pandemic and the rules it incites could force the legalization of sports betting to tumble down the state’s list of priorities once more. A big part of the legislature has to do with establishing on-site betting hubs. That becomes harder to organize if the local economy hasn’t recovered, and if sporting venues are potentially excluding a huge swathe of the sports-betting base by demanding they be vaccinated prior to attending games.

California’s COVID-19 Requirements Ultimately Shouldn’t Derail Approval of Sports Betting

For those in California who have been waiting for the legalization of sports betting, you’re free to rest easy. Sort of.

The new measures in place for those attending outdoor and indoor sporting events shouldn’t actually slow the latest approval process. The financial benefits are too great for the state continue ignoring—particularly when so many other regions have already legalized sports betting themselves.

Many experts currently estimate that off-short sports betting top $10 billion from those residing in California. That’s “billions” with a “B.” By continuing to leave the issue unaddressed, the state is costing itself 10 figures in potential tax revenue per year. Most places have a minimum of a 10 percent tax levied against licensed sportsbooks. Some regions have gone as high as almost 15 percent. Let’s say California sticks with the 10 percent number. That’s roughly $1 billion per year in additional revenue they’re simply letting walk out the door.

Even in the most prosperous of times, that’s a bonkers amount of money to leave on the table. Now, however, it verges on criminal. Every state is reeling in the aftermath—strike that, amid the continuation—of the coronavirus pandemic. Sports betting is an industry that has done a nice job weathering the adverse effects because much of it can take place remotely. Profits stand to rise even higher if sports venues remain fully open to the public, since that invites a higher volume of in-person transactions.

This is not to say the new COVID-19 restrictions in California will actually accelerate the process. It probably won’t. But they are a reminder of how critical it is for states to capitalize on financial opportunities in front of them. To that end, it initially seemed like sports betting was on track to be legalized in California sometime between 2022 and 2023. That shouldn’t change now.

Peter Lewis

Peter Lewis Jr. comes from Mississippi where he and his family spend their days discussing college football and basketball. He's written sports journalism for years after studying journalism at a local university.