Why go to Nevada to bet on the Super Bowl or March Madness?
Californians overwhelmingly want the right to gamble on sports events in their state, too, judging from Field Poll results released Thursday.
Fans love watching professional or collegiate teams, and it's common now to bet with friends or through an office pool on big games, said Mark DiCamillo, poll director.
"If they're going to do that anyway, you might as well legalize it and have the state reap some tax revenue from it," DiCamillo said. "I think that's the reason for the support."
Legalizing sports betting has become a national issue after New Jersey lawmakers voted this year to defy a federal law limiting sports betting to Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana.
In California, Senate Bill 1390 has been proposed by Inglewood Democratic state Sen. Rod Wright to legalize sports betting if Congress alters the federal ban or it is thrown out in court.
Among California voters, the federal prohibition is less popular than Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant at a Sacramento Kings game.
Legalizing sports betting is favored by 58 percent of all registered voters a 23 percentage-point margin over opponents receiving thumbs up from both genders and all age groups, political parties and religions sampled, the Field Poll found.
Online poker, a separate option for expanding gambling in California, also received more support than opposition in the Field Poll but by a much tighter margin four percentage points.
Senate Bill 1463, languishing in the Legislature, would allow Californians to play poker on state-sanctioned websites.
DiCamillo said he suspects that voters are more willing to support sports betting than online poker because their favorite teams play at a fixed point in time, not constantly, 24 hours a day.
Lisa Baldis, 47, told the Field Poll that she sees no reason why betting on sports should be a crime.
"We need less government intervention in our lives, telling us what to do, and how to live, and what to eat," said Baldis, a Fresno Republican.
"I have four kids, we work hard to get the money that we have and I don't want to throw it away," she said. "But I don't think the government needs to dictate to us."
Patrick Stewart, 57, said people are going to bet on sports events whether the government likes it or not. He supports legalization.
"If it could raise some revenue, (why not?)" the Los Banos Republican said. "People gamble all the time."
Faye Mitchell, a 70-year-old Glenn County Democrat, opposes legalizing sports betting because of its potential harm to families.
"People are not very careful with their money, anyway, and they end up getting addicted to things like that," she said.
Larry Flure, 58, said he is wary of expanding any form of gambling "I didn't even vote for the Indian casinos" but he finds the notion of placing bets on sports events at gambling establishments less objectionable than online poker because the latter can be done instantly by pushing a keyboard button.
Wright's bill would allow bets to be placed at Indian casinos, racetracks and other existing gambling establishments.
"If people have to travel to make a bet, I think it makes a big difference," said Flure, a Rocklin Democrat.
Flure said he suspects that the push to expand gambling in California is fueled more by the state's budget crisis than popular demand.
"To me, the state will do anything it can to generate funds," he said.
John Lovell was not contacted by the Field Poll, but as a lobbyist for the California Police Chiefs Association, he has strong feelings against allowing sports betting.
"Aren't there implications, with that much money involved, of efforts to influence the outcomes of games?" Lovell said.
"Expansion of gambling is not a good idea," he added. "Gambling addiction brings with it a whole host of related public safety problems. People can commit other crimes to feed their gambling habits, just like drug addiction."
David Quintana, political director for the California Tribal Business Alliance, said sports betting potentially could generate more revenue for tribal casinos, but it also could backfire by allowing racetracks, card rooms and other gambling establishments to intrude upon tribes' monopoly by offering a Nevada-style game.
"Would it be a windfall for tribes in San Diego if this were also allowed at Del Mar and at satellite wagering facilities in downtown San Diego? I don't know. I don't think so. So we'd have to see how expansive the language is," Quintana said.