California is home to almost 70 casinos, all operated by Native American tribes. As such, California boasts the largest tribal gambling market in the entire US. Slots are the main attraction, as California law technically forbids craps, roulette, and certain other casino games. That said, many casinos have come up with workarounds like “California Roulette,” a game that plays like traditional roulette but features playing cards. Meanwhile, real money online casinos are illegal in California. The best options for those wanting to play casino games online are social and sweepstakes casinos. Sites like Pulsz Slots and Casino, a social casino, enable players to play online for fun. Chumba Casino, LuckyLand Slots and Funzpoints also allow players to play with virtual currencies with a chance to win cash prizes.
California Online Gambling
Welcome to PlayCA, your source for gambling news, including online gambling in California. Here you will find a comprehensive repository of information about all the types of legal gambling available in California.
Sports and gambling are both huge here. However, California has yet to follow the path of dozens of other US states to legalize online gambling. Meanwhile, there are many other legal ways to gamble in the state thanks to nearly 70 tribal casinos and close to 100 legal card rooms. Horse racing and horse betting are also legal, including at the state’s four world-renowned racetracks. But legal sports betting is a work in progress with a potential for change in 2022.
Read on below or click the relevant tabs above to find out what is already happening in California as well as what might be coming in the future.
California Card Rooms
Card rooms have a long, rich history in California. Indeed, during the middle decades of the 20th century, the Gardena card rooms were the only legal alternative for live poker in the US to those in Las Vegas. Sometimes called casinos, these rooms primarily feature poker, although the larger ones also offer other games like Caribbean stud, baccarat, and a version of blackjack. Since California law forbids house-banked card games, all of these card games are designed as player-versus-player games. Currently, there are nearly 100 card rooms in the state. The largest is the Commerce Casino, with more than 200 tables.
Pari-mutuel wagering on horse races is legal in California. The state hosts several highly rated thoroughbred racetracks, including Santa Anita Park and the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in the southern part of the state and Golden Gate Fields near San Francisco. Los Alamitos Race Course is also a favorite destination for fans of quarter horse racing. California also allows advance deposit wagering on horse races taking place around the world. Bettors can wager on races at several off-track betting parlors in the state. They can also place their bets online at ADW sites like TVG and TwinSpires.
Daily Fantasy Sports
California is one of many states to neither specifically forbid nor allow daily fantasy sports contests. Lawmakers have introduced DFS bills in the past, though none has advanced. In any case, DFS sites like DraftKings, FanDuel, Yahoo Fantasy Sports, and FantasyDraft all serve Californians. In fact, California comprises one of the largest DFS markets in the US. There are an estimated 120,000 players in the state contributing more than $200 million in DFS entry fees each year. That total comprises about 10% of all DFS players in the US.
The California State Lottery began selling tickets in 1985 to fund public education. In addition to a variety of scratch-off games (“scratchers”), the lottery offers several draw games. These include in-state games like Fantasy 5, Daily 4, Daily 3, Daily Derby, Hot Spot, and the popular SuperLotto Plus. California also participates in the big multi-jurisdictional drawing games, Powerball and Mega Millions. Thanks to California state law, the prize amounts for both Powerball and Mega Millions are pari-mutuel, meaning in CA they differ from the fixed prizes available to players from other states. You must purchase California Lottery tickets at lottery retailers (i.e., no online sales).
Sports betting is not yet among the legal gambling options in the state. Even so, there is significant interest in having California join the many other states who have legalized sports betting since the US Supreme Court lifted the federal ban on doing so in 2018. Those states include all three that border California, as Nevada, Arizona, and Oregon each have legal sports betting. Current sports betting proposals in CA cover both retail and online options, with California’s tribal casinos, card rooms, racetracks, and sports teams all interested in getting involved.
No, gambling online for real money is against California law. There are some exceptions, such as wagering on horse races online via advance deposit wagering and entering daily fantasy sports contests online. The only online casino games or online poker games Californians can play legally are on social and sweepstakes sites.
Lawmakers proposed online poker bills every year from 2008-17, but none gained any traction. Online poker, as well as other forms of online gambling, seems like less of a priority right now as the focus has shifted toward possibly legalizing sports betting.
Generally speaking, the minimum age to gamble in California is 18 years old. You must be at least 18 to play the lottery, bet on horse races or participate in most forms of charitable gambling. Most tribal casinos have a minimum age of 18 to gamble, although those that serve alcohol on the casino floor will require patrons to be at least 21. Players must be at least 21 to play “charity poker nights,” as well.
Sports betting is not legal in California, at least not yet. In the past, proposed bills have all failed to advance thanks in large part to the many competing gambling interests in the state. That said, multiple ballot initiatives concerning sports betting are being pursued that could help get the ball rolling again. Meanwhile, Californians wishing to bet on sports legally have to travel elsewhere to do so, including to all three bordering states. Nevada, Oregon, and Arizona all have legal sports betting.
Yes, Californians can play daily fantasy sports. The state has no law expressly authorizing DFS, but it also has no law prohibiting it, thus making California like many states where DFS legally operates in a “gray” area. DraftKings, FanDuel, and other DFS sites all accept California players in their contests.
No, you cannot legally play online casino games for real money in California. Offshore online sites that allow California players to play for real money do not fall under state or federal regulations. Such sites are risky for Californians, and we do not recommend them. Players in CA can play online casino games on social and sweepstakes sites that use virtual currencies.
You cannot legally play online poker for real money in California. You can, however, play online poker at sites using the sweepstakes model that employ virtual currencies. Global Poker is the most popular example of a sweepstakes online poker site that accepts California players.
The most significant obstacles to any gambling expansion in California are the competing interests of key stakeholders. There is ongoing acrimony between the tribes and card rooms, as the tribes maintain the rooms illegally violate their compacts with the state. That conflict has affected all efforts to legalize online casinos and sports betting. The tribes have long opposed legalizing online gambling, as they worry it may hurt the bottom line at their retail casinos, although they have shown signs they could potentially adjust that position. Meanwhile, California lawmakers haven’t shown much agreement, either, when it comes to gambling expansion, thereby making the situation even less conducive to building the sort of consensus necessary for new legislation to move forward.