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, and “California craps” and “California roulette.”
Here’s an overview of the best Northern California casinos, including 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 card rooms. Some CA card rooms 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 card rooms, see our comprehensive overview of California card rooms.
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 is the largest city in Northern California, located on the southern shore of the San Francisco Bay. There are more card rooms 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.
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)
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:
- Video poker
- California craps (aka “card craps”)
- California roulette (aka “card roulette”)
- 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:
|Alturas Indian Rancheria||Desert Rose Casino||Alturas|
|Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria||Bear River Casino Hotel||Loleta|
|Berry Creek Rancheria of Maidu Indians||Gold Country Casino & Hotel||Oroville|
|Big Sandy Rancheria of Western Mono Indians||Mono Wind Casino||Auberry|
|Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians||Konocti Vista Casino||Lakeport|
|Bishop Paiute Tribe||Wanaaha Casino||Bishop|
|Blue Lake Rancheria||Blue Lake Casino & Hotel||Blue Lake|
|Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians||Harrah's Northern California||Ione|
|Cachil DeHe Band of Wintun Indians||Colusa Casino Resort||Colusa|
|Cahto Tribe of the Laytonville Rancheria||Red Fox Casino||Laytonville|
|Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria||Cher-Ae Heights Casino||Trinidad|
|Chicken Ranch Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians||Chicken Ranch Casino||Jamestown|
|Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians||Coyote Valley Casino||Redwood Valley|
|Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians||River Rock Casino||Geyserville|
|Elk Valley Rancheria||Elk Valley Casino||Crescent City|
|Enterprise Rancheria of Maidu Indians||Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain||Wheatland|
|Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria||Graton Resort & Casino||Rohnert Park|
|Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake||Running Creek Casino||Upper Lake|
|Hoopa Valley Tribe||Lucky Bear Casino||Hoopa|
|Hopland Band of Pomo Indians*||Sho-Ka-Wah Casino||Hopland|
|Jackson Band of Miwuk Indians||Jackson Rancheria Casino & Hotel||Jackson|
|Karuk Tribe||Rain Rock Casino||Yreka|
|Manchester Band of Pomo Indians||Garcia River Casino||Point Arena|
|Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians||Twin Pine Casino & Hotel||Middletown|
|Mooretown Rancheria of Maidu Indians||Feather Falls Casino & Lodge||Oroville|
|Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians||Rolling Hills Casino||Corning|
|Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians||Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino||Coarsegold|
|Pit River Tribe||Pit River Casino||Burney|
|Redding Rancheria||Win-River Casino||Redding|
|Robinson Rancheria||Robinson Rancheria Resort & Casino||Nice|
|Santa Rosa Indian Community of the Santa Rosa Rancheria||Tachi Palace Casino Resort||Lemoore|
|Sherwood Valley Rancheria of Pomo Indians||Sherwood Valley Rancheria Casino||Willits|
|Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians||Red Hawk Casino||Placerville|
|Susanville Indian Rancheria||Diamond Mountain Casino & Hotel||Susanville|
|Table Mountain Rancheria||Table Mountain Casino||Friant|
|Tolowa Dee-ni' Nation||Lucky 7 Casino||Smith River|
|Tule River Indian Tribe||Eagle Mountain Casino||Porterville|
|Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians||Black Oak Casino||Tuolumne|
|United Auburn Indian Community of the Auburn Rancheria||Thunder Valley Casino Resort||Lincoln|
|Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation||Cache Creek Casino Resort||Brooks|
|Yurok Tribe||Redwood Hotel Casino||Klamath|
*casino closed since 2018 due to California wildfires although still listed among active operators by California Gambling Control Commission
Casinos vs. card rooms in Northern California
As noted, you’ll find a number of non-tribal card rooms in California calling themselves “casinos,” although technically speaking that’s a bit of a misnomer. These card rooms largely focus on poker, although many additionally offer other card games as well. None of these card rooms 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.