Responsible Gambling in California


California offers many types of legal gambling. There are dozens of tribal casinos and nearly a hundred legal card rooms throughout the state. Californians can bet on horse races and play the lottery, and momentum is building toward legalizing sports betting in the state, as well. It is important, however, that both those who gamble and gambling providers in California understand the importance of responsible gambling.

For many, gambling can be a fun pastime in moderation and with full awareness of the risks. But gambling can be a highly destructive activity for those who have difficulty gambling responsibly or for whom gambling becomes problematic.

Read on for information about gambling responsibly in California as well as a discussion of how to identify problem gambling and where to go in order to treat it. We also have links and contact information for a number of resources for Californians seeking information about responsible gambling and problem gambling.

What is responsible gambling?

On one level, responsible gambling means simply acting responsibly when gambling or when providing gambling options to others. But the idea covers a great deal more.

The gambling industry considers “responsible gambling” or “RG” an important concept meant to guide all aspects of gambling operations. In other words, responsible gambling isn’t just a general recommendation, but a concrete goal with a host of specific guidelines and initiatives.

California gambling law specifically requires gambling providers to take measures to promote responsible gambling. If they don’t, they can lose their licenses to operate in the state. Likewise, if California decides to expand the legal gambling options in the state, such as by legalizing sports betting, the new laws will contain not just rules regarding what kind of betting is available but also rules to ensure providers practice responsible gambling and encourage their patrons to gamble responsibly.

Tips to keep your gambling safe

Whether you’re playing the lottery, betting on horse races, sitting down at a poker table in a card room, playing the slots in a casino, or engaging in any other type of gambling, you always should understand the risks involved and avoid gambling with money you cannot afford to lose.

Gambling can be a great source of fun and entertainment. But for those who do not practice responsible gambling, it can quickly become harmful and even devastating not just for themselves but for friends and family, as well.

Here are a few tips you can follow to help ensure you are practicing responsible gambling:

  • Keep records of the money you spend gambling.
  • Set limits when necessary (and stick to them).
  • Avoid gambling with non-discretionary money (i.e., money that you need for other purposes).
  • Resist chasing losses when you lose and don’t always keep gambling when you win.
  • Abstain from gambling when feeling anxious or depressed.
  • Avoid gambling when stressed, and never gamble as a means to cope with stress or to avoid stressful situations.
  • Understand that it’s fine to ask for help when gambling starts to become a problem, or even when you suspect it might be becoming a problem.

Best practices for gambling providers

Gambling providers bear significant social responsibility. They should follow guidelines and protocols that enable them to provide safe, fair, and ethical gambling environments.

Casinos, card rooms, and other gambling establishments should consistently conduct their games in ways that encourage responsible gambling. They should aim to create conditions that help keep gambling fun and entertaining and also prevent or at least minimize the chance that patrons fall prey to problem gambling.

Here are a few tips that gambling providers can follow as part of their effort to promote responsible gambling in California:

  • Educate patrons about the importance of responsible gambling and inform them about the associated risks.
  • Train staff to recognize signs of problem gambling.
  • Prevent patrons who are visibly drunk or impaired from gambling.
  • Be vigilant about prohibiting underage gambling.
  • Provide opportunities for patrons to self-exclude from gambling and diligently avoid serving those who choose to self-exclude.
  • Avoid marketing that targets players who are at-risk for problem gambling or that appears to promote or make light of problem gambling behaviors.
  • Provide resources to patrons informing them about responsible gambling and where to receive help for problem gambling.

What is problem gambling?

Problem gambling can be difficult to define. It can also sometimes be hard to detect, either in yourself or others.

Some consider problem gambling analogous to other self-destructive behaviors such as exhibited by those addicted to drugs or alcohol. It’s true that in some cases those affected by problem gambling feel compelled to gamble even when doing so brings harm to themselves or others, not unlike what happens to someone addicted to drugs or alcohol.

That said, problem gambling covers a wide spectrum of behaviors that can negatively impact a person’s health or well-being, relationships with friends and family, employment status, finances, and more. Problem gambling can cause minor hardships or inconveniences. It can also produce disastrous results, including the loss of a person’s savings and/or the creation of enormous debt or even worse outcomes.

As noted, recognizing problem gambling in yourself or a friend or family member can be challenging. Often there aren’t any obvious signs visible to all to indicate someone has a problem with gambling. Here are some common symptoms of problem gambling to watch for:

  • Hiding gambling activity from others.
  • Lying about gambling activity.
  • Letting gambling distract from other activities.
  • Chasing losses or “riding the rush” (letting results cause you to gamble more).
  • Spending more time and/or money gambling than you intended.
  • Feeling guilty about gambling activity.
  • Attempting to borrow money from family members or friends.
  • Selling possessions to raise money.
  • Failing to pay bills or cover essential needs.
  • Making surprise cash withdrawals from bank accounts or cash advances on credit cards.
  • Cashing out stocks or bonds for money with which to gamble.
  • Missing school or work unexpectedly.
  • Getting defensive or arguing about gambling.
  • Not attending to personal hygiene or health.
  • Undergoing extreme swings of emotion because of gambling.
  • Becoming irritable or unstable when not gambling.

California resources for responsible gambling

According to the California Council on Problem Gambling, approximately 1 million Californians suffer from either pathological or problem gambling. Meanwhile, another 3 million in the state are currently “at risk” of becoming addicted to gambling.

The good news is that California offers a variety of resources to prevent problem gambling and to support those whom it affects. There are also several strategies in place to educate the public about the importance of responsible gambling and how to practice it.

California’s effort to promote responsible gambling involves government agencies and providers each working to promote and encourage responsible gambling at every turn.

California Gambling Control Commission

The California Gambling Control Commission is the state’s regulatory body that issues gambling licenses and oversees the activities at the many tribal casinos and card rooms in the state. The CGCC additionally provides information and links to resources about responsible gambling on its website.

Bureau of Gambling Control

Part of California’s Department of Justice, the Bureau of Gambling Control describes its mission as being “to ensure the integrity of gambling in California.”

The bureau provides background checks on prospective licensee holders, conducts regular inspections of gambling providers, reviews and approves all games available in gambling establishments, and also oversees the registrations of nonprofit organizations that provide charitable gaming. The bureau additionally helps the CGCC administer the state’s self-exclusion program (see below).

Responsible gambling and the California Lottery

The California State Lottery follows a comprehensive “Code of Conduct on Responsible Gaming.” Details of that code are available on the CA Lottery website.

The California Lottery’s effort to promote responsible gambling begins with informing the public about how best to play the lottery responsibly and extends to referring problem gamblers to free and confidential treatment. The lottery makes several pledges to players designed to further this effort:

  • Providing information and resources to help prevent and treat problem gambling.
  • Educating lottery players regarding odds and prize information.
  • Training employees and retailers.
  • Advertising “in the most professional and socially responsible manner” possible.
  • Guarding closely against the sales of lottery tickets to minors (i.e., those younger than 18).

Responsible gambling at California card rooms and tribal casinos

The state licenses card rooms in California and requires them to participate in initiatives such as the state’s self-exclusion program and to follow additional best practices that promote responsible gambling.

That means card rooms will need to provide players opportunities to self-exclude or self-restrict from gambling at their establishments. They also provide information to players designed to help encourage responsible gambling and prevent or assist with problem gambling.

Tribal casinos in California, meanwhile, are not legally obligated to participate in the state’s self-exclusion program or follow other similar guidelines. However, many do promote responsible gambling in various ways. In some cases, these casinos provide resources and services to players while adhering to extensive responsible gambling standards.

For example, the Yaamava’ Resort & Casino (formerly the San Manuel Casino) has its own self-exclusion program for players modeled after the state-run program. The casino also has responsible gambling programs for employees and provides extensive information and links to responsible gambling resources for patrons. For these efforts, the casino has repeatedly received the Responsible Gambling Silver Certification from the California Council on Problem Gambling.

California resources for problem gambling

There are many resources available to Californians suffering from problem gambling. In most cases, these services extend not just to problem gamblers but also to affected friends and family members who are in need of support.

Office of Problem Gambling

The Office of Problem Gambling is part of the California Department of Public Health and provides an all-purpose hub for information and services designed both to prevent problem gambling and treat those whom it affects.

The OPG provides extensive counselor training for the treatment of gambling disorders. The office’s prevention program also includes maintaining a 24/7 helpline, providing technical assistance, delivering public awareness campaigns, and funding research into problem gambling.

Not only does the OPG provide free support via telephone, but individuals can reach trained counselors via text or online chat:

  • Call 1-800-GAMBLER.
  • Text SUPPORT to 53342.
  • Chat online by visiting 800GAMBLER.CHAT.

The OPG website connects Californians to other resources and programs, as well. Visitors will find the extremely detailed and useful Problem Gambling Awareness Toolkit containing brochures, fact sheets, self-help tools, outreach materials, videos, social media graphics, and more.

California Gambling Education and Treatment Services

California Gambling Education and Treatment Services — which goes by CalGETS — is a treatment program available under the auspices of Walden House, a statewide organization that provides behavioral health services. CalGETS connects those suffering from problem gambling with licensed specialists who can provide free and confidential treatment options.

California Council on Problem Gambling

The California Council on Problem Gambling is yet another state-based resource designed to help prevent and treat problem gambling. An affiliate of the National Council on Problem Gambling, the CCPG promotes awareness of problem gambling and supports a number of methods of treatment for those afflicted. Here are some of the resources that it provides:

  • Help from trained counselors and therapists.
  • A residential treatment facility (a free inpatient program).
  • An intensive outpatient treatment program (also free).
  • Community support groups.
  • Responsible gambling tools for prevention and recovery.
  • Self-help tools and publications and self-assessment questions.

Voluntary self-exclusion and self-restriction in California

The Bureau of Gambling Control works with the CGCC to help administer the state’s self-exclusion program. The program invites gamblers to exclude themselves voluntarily from being able to enter gambling establishments. California law additionally requires gambling licensees to administer a self-restriction program.

As noted above, the requirement does not extend to the state’s tribal casinos, but it does apply to the state’s many card rooms.

The state’s self-exclusion request form offers two options:

  • One year self-exclusion (irrevocable).
  • Lifetime self-exclusion (can be removed by request after a minimum of a year).

Individuals can also fill out a self-restriction request form to restrict themselves from particular games or card rooms, from check-cashing or credit privileges (either wholly or by imposing limits), and/or from receiving marketing or promotion information from gambling establishments. Those requests also can be for one year or a lifetime.

Card rooms can create their own self-exclusion and self-restriction forms if they wish. Those establishments can also vary the terms, such as by offering additional self-exclusion or self-restriction periods of 30 days or 90 days.

National resources for responsible gambling and problem gambling

Californians can additionally make use of the many national organizations that work to help those whom problem gambling is affecting.

  • National Council on Problem Gambling: This organization supports programs and services that aim to help individuals and families impacted by problem gambling. Contact the NCPG’s National Problem Gambling Helpline Network at 1-800-522-4700 or access online chat at for help finding local resources.
  • Gamblers Anonymous: Similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, this 12-step self-help program provides free telephone hotline services nationwide, including California, at 855-2CALLGA (855-222-5542). Gamblers Anonymous also hosts support meetings throughout the state, with nearly 200 weekly meetings currently available in California. There is a convenient search engine on the Gamblers Anonymous website to help find meeting types, schedules, and locations.
  • Gam-Anon: Affiliated with Gamblers Anonymous, Gam-Anon is analogous to Al-Anon in its focus on family members and friends of problem gamblers.
  • Gamtalk: Another organization employing a fellowship model that provides various self-help tools and programs as well as moderated live online chats.

Importance of responsible gambling

Gambling can be great fun and a source of entertainment for responsible adults. Those who understand the risks involved and who can practice moderation often enjoy gambling without negative consequences. That said, gambling isn’t for everyone, and some adults find it especially challenging to practice self-control and gamble responsibly.

Everyone involved with legal gambling needs to appreciate the importance of practicing responsible gambling. Those who gamble need to monitor their own behavior for symptoms of problem gambling. Gambling providers also need to manage their games in ways that make it easier for gamblers to remain responsible as they play, as well as to discourage habits or actions that could lead to problem gambling.

Bookmark this page and take advantage of the many resources available in California. Learn how to practice responsible gambling, and if problem gambling is harming you or someone close to you, don’t hesitate to seek help.

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