California State FlagCalifornia’s position has historically been favorable towards gambling. Gambling was virtually unregulated up until 1984 when the Gaming Registration Act surfaced, followed later in 1997 by the Gambling Control Act, which was established to implement statewide legal gambling regulation.

Then in the fall of 2003, Proposition 1A was passed by California voters which would allow the Governor of CA to establish gaming compacts with eligible Indian Tribes. Each participating tribe in the state-tribal compacts are allowed to run two land-based casinos.

These casinos are regulated to ensure fair and safe gambling practices. California Online Gambling Laws have evolved over time to expand the scope of gambling opportunities in the state. While land-based gambling can be found readily in California in select Tribal areas, it is the change in California gambling laws which have allowed the industry to experience increased popularity over the last several years.

Other California Gambling Pages

Where Does California Stand Concerning Online Poker?

California has made several attempts to regulate online poker and previously had two bills up for consideration. In February 2013, State Senator Lou Correa proposed a bill to regulate online poker in the state of California. The bill SB 678 – Authorization and Regulation of Internet Poker and Consumer Protection Act attempted to regulate online poker in the state. The bill sought to limit online gaming to only include poker and would require the state to abstain from any federal legislation that would be enacted.

The proposed bill, however, did not make its way through the committee in a timely manner. Senator Correa then made a few changes to the bill and in August 2013 reintroduced it with urgency status, though to no avail. Supporters of online gambling in CA have been faced with resistance from tribal casino owners, slowing down the progress of any legislation seeking to allow domestic online poker.

Though California is yet to legalize domestic online poker gaming, legally licensed and regulated online poker rooms based outside of the United States are still legal options for California poker players and USA players in general.

General Online Gambling Laws In California

In December 2012, State Senator Roderick Wright introduced SB 51 – Internet Gambling Consumer Protection and Public-Private Partnership Act but it languished in the committee chaired by the Senator.

Online wagers on horse racing are permitted as California online gambling under California law. The state also accepts wagers from residents of states that do not prohibit such activities. However, it is unclear whether this legislation applies to a game of skill.

There are currently no state laws specifically prohibiting California players from participating in online gambling at legally licensed and regulated offshore gambling sites. There are also no federal laws prohibiting or criminalizing licensed offshore online gambling for USA players or players from California. This leaves the door open for players to participate in online gambling at a number of sites legally based and regulated outside of the United States.

California Gambling Laws Concerning Charitable and Social Gambling

California law does permit charitable gambling. Charitable gambling, however, is limited to bingo, poker, and raffles. Charitable gambling under California law does not cover online gambling.

Also, there are many licensed casinos and card rooms across the state. It is legal to play poker and other card games in such licensed card rooms and casinos.

Social gambling including home poker games is legal as long as they do not break California gambling laws. A game of poker will be considered as social gambling if:

  • the homeowner or the host does not receive any monetary gain for hosting the game. Personal winnings do not count.
  • the game offers a level playing field to all players. Every player must have an equal opportunity to win
  • the game must be conducted in a private setting such as a home or a private social club.

Under California law, illegal gambling is a misdemeanor offense. Gambling includes any game of monte, faro, roulette, rouge et noire, lansquenet, tan, rondo, seven and a half, fan-tan, hokey-pokey, twenty-one or any percentage or banking game played using dice, cards or any other device for money, credit, checks or other things of value. Gambling includes playing, as well as, conducting a gambling event. Fines can range between $100 and $1000.

Unlike many other states that base their poker laws on the distinction between chance and skill, California poker laws are based on the rake, an odd aspect of poker. The game of poker will become a percentage game if the rake is taken as a percentage of the pot. The definition of gambling under California laws includes percentage games played using cards.

However, if the rake is taken in a non-percentage based structure such as a time charge or a flat rate, the game of poker will not run afoul of California gambling laws. In a nutshell, a game of poker will not be breaking California laws if it is not a percentage game. A percentage game is illegal even if the house or the host does not participate or have a stake in the game.

California law does not specifically make poker illegal. As long as the rake is not a percentage of the pot, the game is legal. If a poker game is not a percentage game, playing that game will not be illegal.

But if the game is a percentage game or an illegal game under California law, even encouraging someone to take part in that game is illegal. Gambling laws in California can also vary from city to city. Each town or city may impose other restrictions on a game of poker.

The Impact of Federal Gambling Laws On California Players

Of the three federal gambling laws that governing various forms of betting entertainment throughout the US, one was recently repealed through a ruling by the United States Supreme Court: PASPA. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act is no longer enforced and therefore, each state, including California, has their own free will regarding the regulation of sports betting entertainment both online and offline.

The Federal Wire Act was recently revisited in 2019 to only restrict interstate gaming only permitting complete intrastate gaming, meaning states cannot accept wagers or transmit gaming information across their state lines. The UIGEA is not directed at US gamblers, but rather the business operators like banks and gambling entities, and payment processors that transact and process gambling related transactions.

California Gambling Laws

While California has not specifically legalized state-regulated online gambling yet, their dire financial situation makes it likely they will move in this direction sooner rather than later. Currently, there are no state laws prohibiting or criminalizing the act of placing bets online through licensed and regulated offshore gambling sites. This means CA dollars are leaving the state, and a cash desperate state may regulate online gambling just to recapture those dollars.

To review the California state laws and statutes concerning gambling, you may want to visit the State of California DOJ to find the details and content of the legislation. For professional interpretation or legal advice, we recommend that you contact a lawyer. We are not lawyers, do not hold any law degrees or legal certifications, and are not here to provide professional legal services. We are consultants who seek to inform the betting community about relevant online gambling related topics.

FAQS for California Gambling Laws

What Forms Of Gambling Are Legal In California?

California is one of the few states to have several forms of legal gambling available to its residents. Player banked card rooms are widespread throughout the state. These cards rooms the house only takes a small fee per hand and instead of playing against the house, players play against other players.

This makes it legal under California law because the house does not take a percentage rake. There are also over 60 Native American casinos in the state, over 21,000 lottery ticket sales locations, and various horse and greyhound tracks.

What Is Charitable Gambling?

Limited to Bingo, Poker, and Raffles, Charitable Gambling is an exception to California state law that allows charity groups rather than casinos to provide these specific gambling activities and use the earnings towards charitable causes.

What Is Social Gambling?

Social gambling is another exception to the California state gambling laws that allow the private citizen to wager among a group of friends in a private home or environment. Social gambling games must offer a level playing field for all players involved, it must be conducted in a private setting and the host cannot stand to gain any profit off the event in any way outside of his or her winnings in the game itself.

What Are The Consequences For Illegal Gambling In California?

You can be charged with illegal gambling, a misdemeanor offense is the state of California, for merely showing someone where to play illegal card games. You can be fined anywhere between $100 dollars and $1000 dollars based on the severity of your offense. However, as the card rooms in the state operate, if you don’t take a percentage rake and instead take some other form of fee, you remain completely legal.

Why Does The Online Gambling Website Have To Be Located Outside Of The US To Be Legal For CA Residents?

CA-based online gambling websites cannot acquire the appropriate regulation to operate without proper legislation authorization. Online sportsbooks were specifically made to be federally illegal under the Federal Wire Act, however, this stance changed once PASPA was removed. Online gambling sites licensed and located outside of the US jurisdiction are considered legal as there are no laws that would criminalize any citizen of the US for using them.

Some online gambling sites are legal if they are located domestically and licensed within the state which authorizes their operation. States which have done this include New Jersey, Delaware, and numerous others. Because multiple states have yet to build the infrastructure, commissions, and organizations to able to sustain such an industry, they have yet to legalize it and thus offer regulation for online gambling.