Out of all states, California enjoys the most potential for regulated online casino gaming. The state houses the largest population at almost 40 million residents and boasts the largest economy at $3 trillion in gross state product.
The problem, though, is that California hasn’t legalized online casinos. The only legislative efforts it has put forth involve online poker.
The state is missing out on a goldmine of tax dollars from online gaming. Meanwhile, several other states are already capitalizing on the opportunity by offering residents and visitors legal gaming sites.
Regulated online casinos in California will likely take advantage of the opportunity in the future.
Here, we’ll cover what types of games online CA casinos would offer. But first, let’s discuss the current gaming market and why past legislative efforts have failed.
California-based businesses aren’t allowed to operate casino sites because of the federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, or UIGEA. This law prohibits all US companies from knowingly accepting payments related to bets or wagers placed over the internet.
Sweepstakes casinos for real cash prizes in California
Fortunately, Californians aren’t completely out of options for playing casino games online. One solution is to use sweeps cash casinos – like Chumba Casino and Luckyland Slots, which run on virtual currencies while simultaneously providing their customers with an opportunity to win real money prizes.
The model is simple: players need to purchase virtual currency bundles to play the games. Each of those bundles comes with a promotional set of sweepstakes tickets, which can also be used to play the games. The catch is that you can win more of them if you put them at risk. Every ticket that has been played at least once can be used to redeem real money prizes, i.e., cash out.
Legally, what makes this model work is the fact that virtual currency is the purchasable product, and the sweepstakes tickets are handed out for free as promotional gifts. Because sweepstakes-based promotions are legal in California and virtual currency holds no intrinsic value and can even be transferred outside the casino site, California residents are free to play on such platforms without violating Section 330.
California Online Casino fact sheet:
|State-sanctioned sites:||No. UIGEA still in effect.|
|Offshore casino sites:||Illegal|
|Online casino bill:||No. All efforts were focused on poker.|
The current legal status of California online gambling
The Golden State hasn’t regulated gaming sites yet. As a result, California doesn’t offer any legal online casinos.
Operating an internet-based casino in this state is illegal. No law directly addresses gambling at an unregulated gaming site.
However, penal code 330a, which discusses illegal gambling, could be applied to playing through a smartphone, tablet or PC:
“(…) any slot or card machine, contrivance, appliance or mechanical device, upon the result of action of which money or other valuable thing is staked or hazarded (…) is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
Assuming California regulates online gambling, the state constitution would likely include new excerpts that clear up the legality issue.
California fails to legalize online gaming
Several other states have already legalized online casinos.
However, California was one of the first states to consider internet-based gaming. The initial online poker bill was proposed in 2008.
Had this bill passed, California would’ve been four years ahead of any other state in legalizing online gaming. The 2008 legislation failed, though, like many other efforts throughout the past decade.
We mentioned that California’s size sets it up to be a lucrative online casino market. However, it also creates difficulties in passing legislation.
Licensed card rooms, tribes and racetracks all serve the state’s gambling needs. Each of these entities has its take on how a regulated online poker market should work.
The tribes, which earn billions annually from their casinos, are especially dragging their feet. They’re not interested in sharing revenue with card rooms and racetracks, nor do they want to upset the status quo.
Card rooms and horse tracks, on the other hand, won’t cede online poker to tribal casinos. They want to share in any revenue generated by poker sites.
This impasse spells doom, not only for online poker rooms, but also for online casinos. If the tribes are worried about poker upsetting their status as market leaders, they’re probably even more against casino sites.
Sweepstakes online casino – Chumba Casino
Chumba Casino was one of the first sweepstakes sites that appeared on the US market in 2018. Players who purchase virtual currency from Chumba are awarded sweepstakes tickets at a 1:1 rate, which is also maintained when you redeem them for cash. The site also runs a promotion that allows you to receive ten tickets for purchasing your first $5 bundle.
Chumba Casino software is 100% browser-based, which makes it compatible with most modern computers and mobile devices. Its game library is relatively small, composed of 42 video slots (including four progressive jackpot games), one video poker game, and one blackjack game, but all the available titles were designed in-house and cannot be accessed via any other site.
While Chumba games tend to be based on slots designed by well-established developers, they’re far from being cheap knock-offs. Their production value is top-notch, and the gameplay is smooth and satisfying.
What’s more, Chumba’s blackjack is arguably one of the most newbie-friendly table games on the market at the moment as it comes with a Show Odds feature that allows you to check the odds of winning your hand if you opt to stand instead of hitting.
There is also a new sweeps based casino launched in 2019, Lucky Land Slots is now available for California residents.
Social casino sites
Section 330 applies exclusively to real money games, which means that California residents are free to play on social casino sites such as Slotomania, Zynga, or Big Fish. While those sites are entertaining, we recommend playing on MyVegas, which is a social platform operated by MGM, a company that also owns the MGM Grand Las Vegas Hotel & Casino located in Nevada.
The loyalty points accumulated by playing on MyVegas can be exchanged for comps at MGM Grand, which include free meals, retail items, and free hotel stays.
Can we look forward to legal CA online casinos?
No online gambling legislation has been introduced since 2017. The lack of a recent bill means that online gaming is currently a non-issue.
However, we shouldn’t take this as a sign that online poker or casino games will never be legal. A lot can happen within the next five to 10 years.
California gaming interests may see that other states, e.g., New Jersey and Pennsylvania, are earning lots of revenue from online casinos. All sides involved should then be more motivated to reach an agreement.
Of course, any gambling bill must pass the state legislature by a two-thirds majority vote. This rule only adds pessimism to internet-based casinos ever becoming a reality.
Politicians could be more willing to listen as they continue missing out on more tax dollars. This scenario, combined with more states regulating online gambling, might change the current sentiment in California.
What online casino gambling could we expect in California?
The Golden State seems a way off from passing the long-discussed online poker legislation, let alone regulating casino games. However, legal online casinos are within the realm of possibility in California.
Here’s speculation on what CA gaming sites would feature.
California online slots
Slots would no doubt be the crown jewel of the Golden State’s online casino market. After all, internet-based slots rule every other regulated casino gaming market.
New Jersey provides an example of what to expect. Most of their operators feature hundreds of online slots, compared to dozens of table games.
California online casinos would likely be supplied by the same slots developers that cover the Garden State: Bally, High5, NetEnt, NextGen and WMS are some of the most popular software providers in New Jersey.
The slots selection dwarfs table games at most online casinos. However, these games are still popular in regulated markets.
Blackjack is always a favorite at gaming sites. New Jersey features plenty of blackjack variations.
These variants range from micro-limit games (10 cents per hand) to side bets like Crazy 7s and Mega Match. The house edges are relatively low, with one single-deck version featuring just a 0.26% house advantage.
Baccarat, craps, Let It Ride, pai gow poker, roulette and Texas Hold ’em bonus poker are some of the other available games.
You can look forward to cheap video poker at CA online casinos in the future. Some regulated games feature a 5 cent denomination, versus the 25 cent denomination at land-based casinos.
Unfortunately, the return-to-player (RTP) percentage isn’t anything to deserve excitement. Jacks or Better (99.54% RTP) is the only high-paying game available in legal markets now.
Several land-based California casinos offer a Joker Poker variation that delivers 99.92% RTP with perfect strategy. That said, you shouldn’t expect to be wowed by CA online video poker.
Live dealer gaming
Live dealer casinos feature real dealers and tables. They stream an authentic, land-based gambling experience straight to your smartphone or PC.
Live dealer games that are available in other states include baccarat, blackjack, casino hold ’em and roulette.
Live casinos are relatively new in regulated markets and will likely grow in the coming years.
Virtual sports see you wager on 3D sporting events and horse races. For example, you might bet on a virtual tennis match between two generic players.
After placing your wager, you get to watch the 3D match play out. Results are determined by a random number generator (RNG), which takes historical sports data into account when determining the winning and losing bets.
How easy would it be to play at California online casinos?
Another hypothetical worth discussing is playing at CA gaming sites. California casinos would probably feature a similar playing process as the rest of the industry.
If you haven’t played at regulated sites, though, you may have questions about this process. Below, you can see the main aspects to consider with signing up and playing at CA casinos in the future.
PC vs. mobile California casinos
Your experience should not dramatically change when moving from PC to mobile casinos, and vice versa. However, the two gaming types have their nuances.
A mobile site either requires you to download an app or play via your internet browser. The former involves installing the app on your phone or tablet.
Regulated gaming sites don’t offer downloadable software for PC or Mac players. You automatically play through your browser with a desktop or laptop computer.
Account registration vs. no registration
You need to register for an account at any casino where you wish to deposit money. However, registration isn’t necessary if you want to play for free.
Some sites allow you to play before registering and becoming a member. All you need to do is choose the desired game and load it in your browser.
Other online casinos force you to register before playing free games. Luckily, this process only takes a few moments.
You need to supply the casino with simple information before submitting your account for approval. This includes basic details such as your name, address, email, gender and date of birth.
Making a deposit
Before joining an online casino, look at the banking section to ensure the site offers both a deposit and withdrawal option you can use.
If California ever legalizes online gaming, banking options won’t be in short supply. Many financial intermediaries will likely serve this market, including Neteller, PayPal, Skrill, Visa and Mastercard.
Take advantage of California online casino bonuses
Internet-based casinos in states with legal online gaming offer excellent bonuses. California can expect the same if it regulates the activity.
These offers are favorable in both size and terms and conditions (T&Cs). Deposit bonuses can be worth as much as a 100% match on your first deposit of up to $1,500.
T&Cs are much lighter than what you can find in many other markets. Typically, you only need to wager your bonus 20x at regulated casinos, versus the 40x gaming industry standard.
Legal gaming sites exist in a highly competitive environment. They’re willing to offer generous bonus deals to entice new players.
California would be no different in this regard. Casinos in the Golden State might feature even better deals thanks to the massive online casino gambling market.
What’s in store for the future?
The UIGEA includes an exception permitting the states to explicitly legalize online gambling, which is why it doesn’t apply to licensed gambling sites operating in Nevada, New Jersey, or Delaware. California lawmakers haven’t made a serious attempt at legalizing online casino games as all their efforts have been concentrated on internet poker.
This prohibition was tested in the court by one of the casino-operating Native Californian tribes, the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel. The tribe launched a small bingo platform called Desert Rose Bingo to test the waters before expanding its online operations to poker.
Desert Rose Bingo servers were located on reservation land, and the tribe argued that it had the right to offer its services over the internet under the compact signed with the state. Had the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel succeeded, it could have paved the way for Native American casinos.
Unfortunately, the site was quickly subpoenaed, and in 2018, the tribe lost the legal battle to keep this project afloat in the Ninth District Court of Appeals. The judge noted that while the argument pertaining to the tribe’s jurisdiction over gambling on tribal land had merit, the act of making a bet took place elsewhere and thus constituted a violation of UIGEA.
If a bingo site powered by servers located on Native American land could be shut down by the California courts, then there’s no hope for any California-based business, tribal or non-tribal, to launch a casino site without an explicit legalization bill being put on the books.