Slots are by far the most popular casino game, and California’s many tribal casinos feature slot machines first and foremost among the games they offer. There you can play slots for a wide range of stakes, from just a penny per spin up to $200 or even more. Meanwhile, it is not legal to play online slots for real money in California. However, Californians can play slots online at several social and sweepstakes casinos that offer an opportunity to win cash prizes for free.
Here’s an overview of slots in California, including information about how and where to play slots in the state, discussion of slot variants like progressive jackpots, details regarding those social and sweepstakes casinos that offer online slots, and more.
Best social and sweepstakes sites with online slots in California
of Gold Coins for $10
Can you play slots online in California?
Online gambling for real money is not legal in California. It could become legal in the future, but for now, there is no legal real money online gambling in the state, including online slots.
However, Californians wishing to play online slot machines are able to do so at several social/sweepstakes casinos. Rather than use real money, these sites invite players to use virtual currencies to play a variety of slots. While some of the games are strictly for play money, others do offer a chance to redeem cash prizes.
Top social or sweepstakes casinos for Californian players
Social and sweepstakes casinos have become a popular option for fans of slots and casino games. That is especially true in states like California that do not allow real money gambling online. By using token systems to power their games, these sites abide by state laws while still allowing players to play various slot titles and in some cases have opportunities to claim cash prizes.
When it comes to slots, social and sweepstakes casinos often feature state-of-the-art graphics, animation, and sounds that rival what you might find at online casinos in jurisdictions that allow gambling online. The best social casino for slots players is Pulsz Slots and Casino. Meanwhile the most popular social sites that offer online casino slots are Chumba Casino, LuckyLand Slots, and Funzpoints.
Pulsz Slots and Casino
Pulsz Slots and Casino is a social casino that invites players to play a wide variety of casino games for fun. Operated by Yellow Social Interactive, Pulsz has grown considerably and now offers nearly 400 slots games in addition to two table games.
Favorite slots titles at Pulsz include Hot Triple Sevens Special, Joker’s Jewels, Black Wolf and Cycle of Luck. The site also features a number of popular Megaways slots games with their creative shape-shifting reels. These include 5 Lions, Curse of the Werewolf, Great Rhino and Big Bass Bonanza.
Chumba Casino is a social casino that offers an especially wide selection of slots as well as video poker. You’ll also find other table games at Chumba, including blackjack and roulette. The site is owned and operated by VGW Malta Limited, part of the Australian company Virtual Gaming Worlds. The Malta Gaming Authority licenses and regulates Chumba.
Most of the 140-plus slot titles at Chumba Casino are in-house products unique to the site. Many of these proprietary games such as Lucky Charms, Wild Gold, Celtic Goddess and Stampede Fury resemble better-known slots that you might find at California’s tribal casinos.
LuckyLand Slots is another social casino from Virtual Gaming Worlds (i.e., the VGW Group). Like Chumba Casino, it is licensed and regulated by the Malta Gaming Authority. However, unlike Chumba Casino, LuckyLand Slots focuses primarily on slots. That said, promotions include scratchers and keno-like “instant win” games as well as bonuses simply for logging onto the site. There are 11 instant-win games in all.
The site features more than 80 slot titles, which again are all proprietary, in-house games. Favorites include Celestial Unicorn, Dr. Amazing, Wild Winter, and Lucky Duck.
Funzpoints is a social/sweepstakes casino that likewise primarily features slots, although it also offers daily jackpot drawings that give players another way to win. Nova Scotia-based Woopla Inc. owns and operates the site.
At last check, Funzpoints had more than 70 slot games, including one keno game. As with the other sweepstakes sites, the games on Funzpoints are all in-house titles, which means they are all unique to the site. Popular Premium Funzpoints titles include Diamond Kitty, Barnyard Frenzy, Cherry Master Deluxe, and Safari Thunder.
Are slot machines legal in California?
Slot machines are legal in the state’s many tribal casinos. However, you will not find them anywhere else, such as in California card rooms or racetracks. Some CA card rooms (especially the large ones) call themselves “casinos” like The Commerce Casino and The Bicycle Casino. But don’t be fooled — they are not technically casinos and thus cannot legally offer slots as the tribal casinos do.
There are nearly 70 tribal casinos in the state. Each offers a variety of Class III casino games, including real money slots. In some California casinos, you’ll find traditional mechanical reel slots, both three reels, and five reels. You’ll also frequently find video slots that play similarly but often offer additional bonuses and scatter plays.
There are also many slots that feature progressive jackpots. With progressive slots, the top prize increases every time someone plays the game and doesn’t win the jackpot. Usually, many different machines are part of the same network, with all players contributing to the jackpot. This makes the top prize increase even faster.
Do slot machines in tribal casinos pay out less than slots in Vegas?
This is a common question, inspired in large part by the fact that unlike commercial casinos, tribal casinos do not have to provide slot machines’ return-to-player percentages. You can look up such figures for Nevada commercial casinos’ slots, but the same information is not publicly available regarding slots at California tribal casinos.
Since the tribes don’t have to make public the RTP percentage for their slot machines (some wonder), why wouldn’t they pay out less?
The fact is, it is impossible to know for sure what the RTPs are for the slots in California tribal casinos. However, circumstantial evidence suggests it probably isn’t markedly different from what you encounter when playing slots in other states’ casinos.
Many of the machines in California casinos come from the same manufacturers who supply slots to commercial casinos in locations that strictly regulate and publish RTP percentages. In such cases, it is possible, though unlikely, that the machines the tribes are using have different programming.
Meanwhile, the tribal casinos’ video poker machines (which do post their payout rates) have very similar RTP percentages to those in other states, another indicator that the slots likely exhibit a similar consistency.
In addition, significant competition around the state would further suggest that tribal casinos offering significantly lower RTP percentages on their slots would likely lose customers quickly. California has a lot of casinos (and Nevada isn’t that far away, either). A casino with low-paying slots likely would have difficulty retaining customers who could readily seek other gambling options.
All of which is to say, while there is no definitive answer regarding how well (or how poorly) California tribal casinos’ slot machines pay out, chances are they don’t pay out much differently from slots in other states.
California slots and RTP percentages
Speaking of RTPs, slots players should know there is one factor that does affect how often a slot machine pays out — the stakes.
Each slot machine has a computer chip inside it that controls a random number generator. The RNG determines whether a spin wins and thus which symbols appear when the spin concludes. In each machine, the RNG is programmed to pay out a certain percentage of the time. That’s the RTP or return-to-player percentage that we discussed above.
Slots with low stakes generally have a lower RTP than do slots with higher stakes. Thus, penny slots pay out a lower percentage of the time than do slots that cost $25 a spin or more.
Again, since tribes do not make public the RTP percentages for their machines, we cannot say definitively what the payouts are. But you can confidently assume the tribal casinos’ slots similarly pay a higher percentage when the wagers are higher than they do for the lowest-stakes slots.
Relatedly, it’s also worth pointing out that in some cases players need to bet the maximum amount in order to qualify for a progressive jackpot. There, too, the amount you bet can affect how much you can potentially win.
Most popular slots among California players
California tribal casinos feature many of the world’s most popular slots. They partner with many of the same slot providers as do Las Vegas casinos. That means, when you visit casinos in the state, you’ll find slots from top game studios like Aristocrat, AGS, Everi, IGT, Scientific Games, and more.
California tribal casinos’ websites often highlight their most popular slots. Here are some of the titles the casinos promote as the most popular among Californians:
- 88 Fortunes
- Big Money Burst
- Buffalo Gold
- Buffalo Stampede
- Dancing Drums
- Dragon Link
- Lightning Link
- Mad Max: Fury Road
- Walking Dead II
- Wheel of Fortune
- Wolf Run
- Wonder 4 Tall Fortunes
Tribal casinos with the most slot machines in California
In California, every tribe that offers gambling has its own tribal-state compact that outlines how many slot machines it can have in its casinos. In some cases, the number of slot machines is a few hundred or less. In others, the tribal casino can have an unlimited number of slots in return for the tribes making specified payments into state funds.
According to the American Gaming Association, California tribal casinos had 83,356 slot machines in 2021. That ranked California second in the US. Nevada led the nation with almost twice as many (142,177). Only two other states — Oklahoma and Illinois — had more than 50,000 slot machines.
The five California tribal casinos with the most slot machines are as follows:
- Yaamava’ Resort & Casino (Highland) — over 7,000 slots
- Pechanga Resort Casino (Temecula) — 5,400
- Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa (Cabazon) — 4,000
- Thunder Valley Casino Resort (Lincoln) — 3,400
- Graton Casino and Resort (Rohnert Park) — 3,000
There are a number of other tribal casinos with 2,000 or more slots, including the following:
- Viejas Casino & Resort (Alpine) — 2,500 slots
- Chumash Casino Resort (Santa Ynez) — 2,400
- Cache Creek Casino Resort (Brooks) — over 2,300 slots
- Sycuan Casino Resort (El Cajon) — over 2,300
- Barona Resort & Casino (Lakeside) — over 2,200
- Red Hawk Casino (Placerville) — over 2,100
- Tachi Palace Casino Resort (Lemoore) — over 2,000
- Sky River Casino (Elk Grove) — 2,000
- Table Mountain Casino Resort (Friant) — 2,000
- Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino (Coarsegold) — 2,000
- Soboba Casino (San Jacinto) — 2,000
- Spotlight 29 Casino (Coachella) — 2,000
- Pala Casino Resort & Spa (Pala) — 2,000
Many California tribal casinos have high limit or VIP rooms where visitors can play for higher stakes and receive access to increased amenities. Some of these rooms feature slots with maximums of $100 or $200 per spin. The Yaamava’ Resort & Casino has even had high limit slots that cost $1,000 per spin.
Also worth noting is the fact that many California tribal casinos have their own online social casinos where players can play slots, table games, bingo and more for free. These social casinos are a great way to try games without having to risk any money at the casino. Many casinos also often offer loyalty rewards and/or ways for players to participate in promotions simply by playing the games.
FAQ about slots in California
What retail locations have slot machines in California?
Only California’s tribal casinos are legally able to offer slots. Slots are not legal at either the state’s many card rooms or at racetracks.
What is the minimum age to play slots in California?
A number of tribal casinos in California allow people who are 18 or older to gamble. For example, both Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa in Cabazon and Barona Resort & Casino in Lakeside are “18+” casinos. However, most set the minimum age at 21, including those that serve alcohol on the casino floor.
Social/sweepstakes casinos that offer slots such as Chumba Casino, LuckyLand Slots and Funzpoints require players to be at least 18 years old. The social casino Pulsz Slots and Casino also requires players to be at least 18.
Are slot machines looser in Nevada than in California?
It is impossible to say definitively since California tribes do not have to report return-to-player percentages for their slot machines while Nevada’s commercial casinos must do so. You will sometimes find California casinos that advertise having the “loosest” or “highest-paying” slots in a given region or in the state. While the casinos are bound by advertising laws not to make false claims, there is no way to independently verify and compare the RTP percentages for slots at individual California casinos.
Can I legally own a slot machine in California?
You can legally own a slot machine in California, although it must be at least 25 years old, and you cannot operate it for gambling purposes. Like many other states, California has a provision in its gambling law (California Penal Code 330.7) that distinguishes the collecting and restoring of “antique slot machines” from the general prohibition against owning slot machines. Otherwise, only California tribes that have tribal-state compacts are legally able to own and operate slot machines.
What is the most money a person has ever won playing slots in California?
It’s hard to say for sure, although most of the largest slot prizes in California have come from playing the popular Megabucks game — aka California Megabucks — available at a few tribal casinos in the state. The game features a progressive jackpot and has produced seven-figure payouts on multiple occasions over the years.
In July 2004, a player won $12,014,971 playing Megabucks at Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln, certainly one of the largest prizes ever won in a CA tribal casino. In December 2010, another player won $8,430,301.44 playing the same game at the Twin Pine Casino & Hotel in Middletown.