California, a state famously large enough to boast an economy which it independent would place it in the world’s top 10, naturally has an incredibly long and detailed history with both betting and football. NFLbets has zero chance of providing such details in any reasonable amount of virtual space, likesay, this one, but we give tidy summarization a shot below. Don’t judge us, as the kids say.
Betting in California
As in so many other areas, California is easily no. 1 among U.S. states not named Nevada in both casinos and card rooms, with approximately 60 and 80, respectively, currently open for business around the state as of this writing. Please note, however, that this abundance is not entirely down to recent liberalization and acceptance of betting games: California has a history of tolerance for gambling going back to incorporation.
The California state constitution, enacted into law with entrance into the United States in 1850, was unique is its provision on gambling, which explicitly *allowed* legal card games – even in San Francisco, already the 15th-largest city in the country by population.
California gambling laws stayed intact while most other states continuously tweaked theirs throughout the 20th century. Through the lottery game bans of the late 19th century, though periods of prohibition and legislative battles over pari-mutuel betting, California’s gambling industry (and civil liberties related thereto) stayed blissfully intact. In fact, Californians helped cracked federal laws which had prevented privately-owned bingo halls and casinos from opening all over the country.
The key case was the Supreme Court case <em>California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians</em>, and the ruling held that state governments have no authority over gambling-related businesses located on reservation land. Following up on this was the game-changing Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 built on <em>California v. Cabezon</em> by allowing Native Americans to open bingo halls and/or casinos on tribal hall if the relevant state government provides for such gaming in its laws.
Native Americans again levied a little casino-accrued influence over California betting in the mid-2000s during the mostly hilarious and tumultuous run of Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger (2003-2011). Though Schwarzenegger’s newfound in-party nemesis George W. Bush had helped ramrod the online betting-killing Unlawful Internet Gambling Act (UIGEA) in 2005, he and those representing tribal interests came together to draft financial frameworks, software infrastructure and taxation plan for an intrastate poker network. Unfortunately, despite falling revenues, at least two such plans were terminated in the legislature long before Schwarzenegger left office in 2003.
As for daily fantasy football betting, hoo boy, you bet the Draft Duels of the world made nice-nice with California lawmakers real quick when individual states began challenging the legality of gambling on DFS online. Thus is the full range of daily fantasy sports unquestionably completely legal in the state as of mid-2015
Football in California
Right, folks. A table of contents for a book entitled Football In California would include material on four NFL/AFL teams; something on every rogue pro league from the WFL forward, ‘cuz each of them wanted at least one California team; histories of USC, UCLA, Stanford, Cal, SDSU and a few more college programs; and the insanely long list of all-time greats. I mean, on the all-time California-born team, you’ve got Tom Brady, Warren Moon *and/or* Aaron Rodgers handing it off to Marcus Allen and O.J. Simpson (o yeah, we went there). Otherwise, they’re throwing to WRs James Lofton and Henry Ellard along with TE Tony Gonzalez. The defense includes dudes like Clay Mathews, Junior Seau and Willie McGinest, to name a very few.
So, yeah, we’ll be abbreviating this to bullet points, highlights of 100+ years of California football…
• 1889. The USC Trojans host the Loyola Marymount (né St. vincent’s) Lions in the first-ever college football game in California. USC cruises, 40-0, in an era when 20 was an eye-popping score.
• 1894. Stanford hosts the first “intersectional” college game in San Francisco, losing to the University of Chicago Maroons, 24-4.
• 1902. The first Rose Bowl is played. The Michigan Wolverines destroy Stanford, 49-0. The annual event ultimately gave rise to the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena for the very purpose of hosting the game.
• 1920. The California Golden Bears are declared the national college football champions after a 9-0 season in which the team averaged a hair under 59 points per game and notched seven shutouts. In games 2-5, Cal ran up scores of 88-0, 127-0, 79-7 and 63-0; all these games were played at Berkeley, thereby helping fix the tradition of powerhouses scheduling creampuffs.
• 1931-32. USC wins back-to-back titles. The Trojans don’t bag another national title until 1962, but have since been a perpetual finisher in college’s top 10 with an enviable history of excellence running nearly 90 years. USC also claims no. 1s in 1967, ’72, ’74, ’78, 2003 and ’04, though this last was forfeited due to rules violations.
• 1946. Professional football comes to California in a neat bit of historical foreshadowing. While the NFL champion (!) Cleveland Rams go west (life is peaceful there) to relocate the team, the rogue All-America Football Conference established the Los Angeles Dons (awesome name) for the same season. From zero teams to two teams, eh? Sounds familiar…
More importantly, however, the Los Angeles Rams were pioneers for the NFL and U.S. professional sport in more important fashion. In one of the great forgotten stories of American journalism, an L.A. reported named Haley Harding spoke up on behalf of African-Americans, imploring the commissioners board of the Los Angeles Coliseum to grant the Rams a lease unless they pledged to sign at least one quality African-American player. Thus did UCLA alum Kenny Washington break his sport’s color barrier one year before Jackie Robinson in baseball.
• 1952. For the first time ever, a college football game is nationally televised. From Pasadena, the Fighting Illini get an easy Rose Bowl win over – c’mon, you can guess it – Stanford, 40-7.
• 1954. In a classic ancient-school story, the UCLA Bruins are named college football no. 1 team for 1954 – but only by the Football Writers Association and United Press International; the Associated Press ranking has Ohio State tops. The true problem stemmed from an idiotic scheduling requirement would otherwise have had – unbelievably enough – Ohio State versus UCLA in the Rose Bowl. Instead, OSU walloped USC while UCLA went bowl-less in the days of five bowls.
• 1960. The American Football League (AFL) is formed. Among the franchises is the Los Angeles Chargers, who moved to the unchartered territory of San Diego for ’61. The Chargers played in the very first AFL championship game and would go on to play three more, cumulatively going 0-4 in those appearances.
• 1967. The Rose Bowl is host to the first Super Bowl (or AFL-NFL Championship Game), 61,946 is the official attendance. Though outstanding for its time, the next-smallest crowd to attend the game would still be bigger by 17%.
• 1974-75. A second rogue league, the World Football League (WFL), has a shot at the coveted California markets by basing the Southern California Sun in Anaheim. The Sun enjoyed some on-field success with a cumulative 20-12 record over two seasons, but attendance in season two was pretty lame. After the team’s home opener in July ’74 drew 32,000+, attendance began a steady slide. By ’75, crowds were in the 10,000 range, and Sun owners became the first of many not to learn that in L.A./O.C. simply too much entertainment is going on to get attention paid to second-level pro sports.
• 1977. The Oakland Raiders tromp the helpless Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI in Pasadena. With 101,000-plus in attendance, this would be the first of four Super Bowls played in the Rose Bowl before over 100,000. The venue still holds the all-time for Super Bowl attendance, when 103,667 attended XVII in ’83.
• 1979. After a decade of contenders lead mostly by USC alum QB Joe Haden, it’s the Vince Ferragamo-led side that makes Super Bowl XIV in Pasadena. Unfortunately, the Steel Curtain fell in the fourth quarter; a couple of huge plays had Pittsburgh winning the fourth quarter, 14-0, and the Lombardi, 31-19.
• 1980-82. Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis plays chicken with the NFL over expanding his stadium in Alameda. After unanimously denied various requests by other franchise owners, Davis picked up and moved the Raiders to Los Angeles for the 1982 season. This immediately brought L.A. its first Super Bowl title after the strike-shortened year and triggered a generation of Raiders-gear wearing hip hoppers – according to Ice Cube, that is.
• 1982. Stanford vs. California. This.
• 1983-85. The United States Football League (USFL), of course! The Oakland Invaders (great name) and Los Angeles Express (OK for an uncountable) had decent and pathetic attendance rates in three years of USFL ball. In fact, in 1984-85, Express owner J. William Oldenburg declared bankruptcy, thus leading the league to collectively run the team … poorly. Front offices of both the Invaders and Express declared that, had a 1986 USFL season gone forward, both would have folded.
• 1985. The San Francisco 49ers to the Miami Dolphins, 38-16, to herald the franchise’s golden age. Behind mastermind coach Joe Walsh, the 49ers go 5-0 in Super Bowls over the next 14 years. Only the Pittsburgh Steelers have won more.
• 1993. In the mid-90s, Canadian Football League (CFL) owners hit upon the wacky idea of expansion into the USA in order to raise some income. For the 1994 season, the Sacramento Gold Miners (yeesh) were formed from the defunct World League of American Football (WLAF) and played in the CFL West division. Thanks so anemic it made the old WFL games look like a packed house, the ’Miners ceased operations before ’95, and after the season the CFL USA experiment was over.
• 1995. The San Diego Chargers finally appear in a Super Bowl, only to meet the buzzsaw known as Steve Young, who together with his Niners, lights up the Chargers with seven TDs in a 49-26 beatdown. As a franchise, the Chargers have been cowering at home since.
• 1996. After Davis & the Raiders headed back to Oakland and the Rams left for St. Louis, Los Angeles/Orange County had its first of 19 seasons without a (home) NFL team. After the ’96 season, the three California teams remaining combined would make just two Super Bowl appearances and lose both.
• 2009-12. You bet another rogue pro football league went back to the California well! In 2009, the United Football League (UFL) established the California Redwoods in San Francisco for the inaugural “soft launch” season. Early on, the UFL brain trust surely knew they were in trouble, for the Redwoods’ third home game was hastily moved to San Jose. For ‘’10 and onward, the team was based in Sacramento and called the Mountain Lions. The Lions managed to stay on the field for the last 2¼ UFL seasons, albeit at three different venues in the city, going from attendance potential of 41,000 to 21,000 to 14,000. You get the idea of this one.
• 2014. Reflecting the Bay Area’s changing demographics, the 49ers relocate their home digs to a spiffy new 75,000-seat arena that was mostly empty until the re-embodiment of Steve Young, i.e. Jimmy Garoppolo, manifested there late in the ’17 season.
• 2016. The Rams return to Los Angeles, are subjects of both HBO’s Hard Knocks and an NFL Films mini-series, and really suck in their first season back from St. Louis.
• 2017. The Chargers move back to Los Angeles. Nobody notices. No, really. As a resident of California, this writer can tell you that they’re maybe the, what, seventh most-popular team in this state?
• 2020. The Las Vegas Raiders kick off play, thereby marking the first of X seasons that the Bay Area is without a professional football team…
Betting on Football in California
We’ll see what happens with betting on football in California after the Supreme Court rulings involving sports betting and the state of New Jersey in 2018, as well as the ’18 statewide elections. With Democrats set to make gains on most levels and Republicans markedly more liberal on social issues than most of their counterparts from elsewhere, however, the future certainly looks good for a wide range of football betting options to be decriminalized in California – likely before that first Las Vegas Raiders game!