Best Casinos in Northern California 2022

When it comes to casinos, Northern California compares favorably with just about any other region in the United States (outside of Las Vegas, of course). There are no fewer than 41 tribal casinos in “NorCal” offering Californians gambling options like slots, blackjack, poker, “California craps” and “California roulette.”

Here’s an overview of the best Northern California casinos. This includes information about which big cities have them nearby, the largest properties in the region, the casino games they offer, the tribes that operate them and more.

Note that we’re focusing on Northern California casinos below, not California cardrooms. Some CA cardrooms call themselves “casinos” even though they are not quite casinos, at least not officially speaking. For more on the difference and detailed information about California’s nearly 100 cardrooms, see our comprehensive overview of California cardrooms.

Sweepstakes casinos in California with real cash prizes

Legality of California casinos

Federally recognized Native American tribes own and operate all casinos in California. There are 75 CA tribes with Class III gambling compacts, and most of them (63) operate casinos throughout the state.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 first paved the way for tribes to operate gambling facilities on their lands. In California, it took another decade for the initial compacts to receive approval, with the first tribal casino opening in 2001. Today, tribal gambling in California is huge. Casinos annually generate $8.5 billion in gross gambling revenue.

California Penal Code Section 330 otherwise prohibits commercial casinos from operating in the state. There are non-tribal card rooms in California that legally offer poker and other card games, but when it comes to casinos, the Golden State only allows the tribes with gambling compacts to operate them.

California likewise prohibits online gambling. That means you won’t find any real money online casinos in California such as those that operate in New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere. However, Californians can play casino games online for fun at social casinos like Pulsz Slots and Casino. They can also play them at sweepstakes sites like Chumba Casino, LuckyLand Slots, Funzpoints, and Global Poker that use virtual currencies that can be redeemed for cash prizes.

Which Northern California cities have casinos?

Of the nearly 70 tribal casinos in California, the majority are in the northern part of the state down to the Central Valley. Most of the state’s largest casinos are in Southern California, but you’ll find that in the north, you are never that far away from a casino, and perhaps several.

There are a number of tribal casinos in the northernmost part of the state. For instance, many make the short drive from Oregon down to play at places like Lucky 7 Casino in Smith River or Elk Valley Casino in Crescent City. Meanwhile, you’ll also find tribal casinos in relatively close proximity to each of the largest Northern California cities.

San Jose

San Jose is the largest city in Northern California, located on the southern shore of the San Francisco Bay. There are more cardrooms than casinos in the immediate vicinity of San Jose. San Pablo Lytton Casino in San Pablo is the closest, about a one-hour drive north, although it is a Class II facility (i.e., not a full-fledged Class III casino).

San Francisco and Oakland

The story is similar for San Francisco and Oakland, where you are more apt to find card rooms than casinos on either side of the bay. San Pablo Lytton Casino is actually closer to these cities (only 15-20 miles away) than to San Jose. Meanwhile, driving a little over an hour north will get you to the Cache Creek Casino Resort in Brooks, one of the larger casinos in California.

Sacramento

There are several tribal casinos in the area around the state capital of Sacramento. None are in the city proper, but several are relatively close:

  • Cache Creek Casino Resort (Brooks, 40 miles west)
  • Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain (Olivehurst, 35 miles north)
  • Harrah’s Northern California (Ione, 40 miles southeast)
  • Jackson Rancheria Casino & Hotel (Jackson, 50 miles east)
  • Red Hawk Casino (Placerville, 45 miles east)
  • Thunder Valley Casino Resort (Lincoln, 30 miles north)

Fresno

Moving down to Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley, there are a number of casinos in that area, as well, including these:

  • Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino (Coarsegold, 40 miles north)
  • Mono Wind Casino (Auberry, 35 miles northeast)
  • Table Mountain Casino (Friant, 20 miles north)
  • Tachi Palace Casino Resort (Lemoore, 35 miles south)

Five largest casinos in Northern California

As noted, there are 41 tribal casinos operating in Northern California out of 66 total in the state. While many of the largest casinos in California are in the south closer to Los Angeles and San Diego, there are several significant ones up north as well. Here is a quick rundown of the five largest tribal casinos in Northern California:

Thunder Valley Casino Resort

  • Address: 1200 Athens Drive, Lincoln, CA 95648
  • Phone: 877-468-8777
  • Slots: 3,400
  • Table games: 110 tables
  • Poker room: 24 tables
  • Minimum age: 21
  • Operating tribe: United Auburn Indian Community

Cache Creek Resort

  • Address: 14455 Highway 16, Brooks, CA 95606
  • Phone: 800-992-8686
  • Slots: 2,300+
  • Table games: 120 tables
  • Poker room: 14 tables
  • Minimum age: 21
  • Operating tribe: Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

Red Hawk Casino

  • Address: 1 Red Hawk Parkway, Placerville, CA 95667
  • Phone: 530-677-7000
  • Slots: 2,500
  • Table games: 75 tables
  • Poker room: Two tables
  • Minimum age: 21
  • Operating tribe: Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians

Table Mountain Casino

  • Address: 8184 Table Mountain Road, Friant, CA 93626
  • Phone: 800-541-3637
  • Slots: 2,000+
  • Table games: 50
  • Poker room: Five tables
  • Minimum age: 18
  • Operating tribe: Table Mountain Rancheria

Tachi Palace Casino Resort

  • Address: 17225 Jersey Ave., Lemoore, CA 93245
  • Phone: 800-942-6886
  • Slots: 2,000+
  • Table games: 31 tables
  • Poker room: n/a
  • Minimum age: 21
  • Operating tribe: Santa Rosa Indian Community of the Santa Rosa Rancheria

Favorite games at Northern California casinos

Northern California casinos feature practically all of the same games that you’ll find in Las Vegas casinos and elsewhere.

Slot machines are the primary attraction, as is the case in casinos across the country. Many also have favorites like blackjack, baccarat, poker, bingo, and various “casino poker” games like Pai Gow, Three Card Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold’em.

One difference between California casinos and those in Vegas and elsewhere has to do with games like roulette or craps. California gambling law prohibits games involving a ball or dice, which means the tribal-state compacts exclude those games from the list of ones that the casinos can offer. However, the tribes have fashioned card-based versions of craps and roulette that play very similarly.

Here is a list of games you’re likely to find in many Northern California casinos:

  • Slots
  • Video poker
  • Baccarat
  • Bingo
  • Blackjack
  • California craps (aka “card craps”)
  • California roulette (aka “card roulette”)
  • Poker
  • Three Card Poker
  • Four Card Poker
  • Pai Gow Poker
  • Pai Gow Tiles
  • Chase the Flush
  • Spanish 21
  • DJ Wild Stud
  • Ultimate Texas Hold’em

Note that no California casinos currently feature sportsbooks. That’s because sports betting is not yet legal in the state. That could change soon, however, as there are many interested parties currently working to legalize sports betting in California. Many of the state’s gaming tribes are part of that effort as well, which means if sports betting does become legal you can expect to find it at California’s tribal casinos.

California tribes that operate casinos in Northern California

There are more than 100 federally recognized Native American tribes in California, and 41 tribes operate casinos in Northern California.

Here’s a list showing which tribes operate casinos in the northern half of the state, along with where those properties are located:

TribeCasinoCity
Alturas Indian RancheriaDesert Rose CasinoAlturas
Bear River Band of the Rohnerville RancheriaBear River Casino HotelLoleta
Berry Creek Rancheria of Maidu IndiansGold Country Casino & HotelOroville
Big Sandy Rancheria of Western Mono IndiansMono Wind CasinoAuberry
Big Valley Band of Pomo IndiansKonocti Vista CasinoLakeport
Bishop Paiute TribeWanaaha CasinoBishop
Blue Lake RancheriaBlue Lake Casino & HotelBlue Lake
Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk IndiansHarrah's Northern CaliforniaIone
Cachil DeHe Band of Wintun IndiansColusa Casino ResortColusa
Cahto Tribe of the Laytonville RancheriaRed Fox CasinoLaytonville
Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad RancheriaCher-Ae Heights CasinoTrinidad
Chicken Ranch Rancheria of Me-Wuk IndiansChicken Ranch CasinoJamestown
Coyote Valley Band of Pomo IndiansCoyote Valley CasinoRedwood Valley
Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo IndiansRiver Rock CasinoGeyserville
Elk Valley RancheriaElk Valley CasinoCrescent City
Enterprise Rancheria of Maidu IndiansHard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento at Fire MountainWheatland
Federated Indians of Graton RancheriaGraton Resort & CasinoRohnert Park
Habematolel Pomo of Upper LakeRunning Creek CasinoUpper Lake
Hoopa Valley TribeLucky Bear CasinoHoopa
Hopland Band of Pomo Indians*Sho-Ka-Wah CasinoHopland
Jackson Band of Miwuk IndiansJackson Rancheria Casino & HotelJackson
Karuk TribeRain Rock CasinoYreka
Manchester Band of Pomo IndiansGarcia River CasinoPoint Arena
Middletown Rancheria of Pomo IndiansTwin Pine Casino & HotelMiddletown
Mooretown Rancheria of Maidu IndiansFeather Falls Casino & LodgeOroville
Paskenta Band of Nomlaki IndiansRolling Hills CasinoCorning
Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi IndiansChukchansi Gold Resort & CasinoCoarsegold
Pit River TribePit River CasinoBurney
Redding RancheriaWin-River CasinoRedding
Robinson RancheriaRobinson Rancheria Resort & CasinoNice
Santa Rosa Indian Community of the Santa Rosa RancheriaTachi Palace Casino ResortLemoore
Sherwood Valley Rancheria of Pomo IndiansSherwood Valley Rancheria CasinoWillits
Shingle Springs Band of Miwok IndiansRed Hawk CasinoPlacerville
Susanville Indian RancheriaDiamond Mountain Casino & HotelSusanville
Table Mountain RancheriaTable Mountain CasinoFriant
Tolowa Dee-ni' NationLucky 7 CasinoSmith River
Tule River Indian TribeEagle Mountain CasinoPorterville
Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk IndiansBlack Oak CasinoTuolumne
United Auburn Indian Community of the Auburn RancheriaThunder Valley Casino ResortLincoln
Yocha Dehe Wintun NationCache Creek Casino ResortBrooks
Yurok TribeRedwood Hotel CasinoKlamath

*casino closed since 2018 due to California wildfires although still listed among active operators by California Gambling Control Commission

Casinos vs. cardrooms in Northern California

As noted, you’ll find a number of non-tribal cardrooms in California calling themselves “casinos,” although technically speaking that’s a bit of a misnomer. These cardrooms largely focus on poker, although many additionally offer other card games as well. None of these cardrooms has slots or the other casino games that the tribes can offer under their Class III compacts with the state.

Some of these card rooms do have blackjack and other card-based casino favorites. However, to get around the prohibition against house-banked games, the games are altered to make them technically player-versus-player (like traditional poker) so as not to have players competing against the house.

The distinction between casinos and card rooms might not seem significant to some. But if you travel to, say, the Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln, you’ll be visiting a full-fledged, Vegas-style casino. Meanwhile, if you go to Capitol Casino in Sacramento or Casino M8trix in San Jose, you’ll be visiting a card room without slots or other casino fare like California craps and roulette.

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