California online gambling takes place entirely in the offshore gaming market. As the largest state population in the United States, that means a huge section of American gamblers visit offshore online casinos, poker sites, and sportsbooks to gamble online. It didn’t have to be so. In fact, no state has discussed online poker legislation more than Californians have. To illustrate California’s interest, an online sports betting bill was on the ballot as recently as 2022.
Keep reading our guide to California online gambling to learn how the current laws came to be. First, get an overview of California gambling laws. Second, read a timeline of the Golden State’s many debates over poker sites and bad actor laws. Next, learn about the best land-based casinos and card clubs in the state. Finally, read about and play at the best real-money online casinos and sportsbooks for California gamblers.
California Gambling Laws Overview
- Licensed Gambling: Land-Based Casinos (Tribal), Poker Clubs (Commercial), Pari-Mutuel Race Tracks, Charitable Bingo Halls, Lottery Betting
- Minimum Gambling Age: 21 (Casinos and Card Clubs), 18 (Offshore Online Gambling)
- Retail Sports Betting: No
- Online Casinos: Yes, at offshore sites
- Online Poker: Yes, at offshore cardrooms
- Online Sports Betting: Yes, at offshore bookmakers
- Live/In-Game Betting: Yes
- College Sports Betting: Yes
- Horse Racing: Land-Based (Yes), Offshore (Yes)
- Lottery Betting: State Lottery, Powerball, Mega Millions
Timeline of California Online Poker Bills
- February 2010: Introduction of California’s First Online Poker Bill: Senator Roderick Wright proposed Senate Bill 1485, aiming to legalize online poker in California. Despite limited chances of passing at the time, this demonstrated his foresight regarding the future of online poker in the US.
- January 2012: Second Online Poker Bill Sponsored by Roderick Wright: Consequently, Senator Wright sponsored a revised version of SB1485, which was sponsored by the California Online Poker Association (COPA).
- February 2013: Third Online Poker Bill Proposed by Roderick Wright: Senator Wright reintroduced SB 1485, but COPA had split into two factions. The Morongo Tribe had an advantageous position due to its exclusive deal with PokerStars. Meanwhile, the Pechanga Tribe opposed PokerStars’ involvement.
California Tribes Squabble Over Online Poker
- February 2013: Introduction of Online Poker Bill by Lou Correa: Next, Senator Lou Correa introduced Senate Bill 678, supported by the Morongo Tribe and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.
- March 2014: Reggie Jones-Sawyer Presents AB 2291: Subsequently, Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer presented the California Online Poker Bill 2014, also known as AB2291.
- August 2014: Modified Online Poker Bill Proposed by Lou Correa: Afterward, Senator Lou Correa sponsored Senate Bill 1366. In doing so, Correa sought to reconcile the differences between the Morongo and Pechanga factions.
- September 2014: Roderick Wright Resigns from Office: Then Roderick Wright resigned from office, resulting in the loss of a prominent advocate for online poker in California.
- February 2015: Introduction of 2015 Online Poker Bill by Lou Correa: Following this, Sen. Lou Correa reintroduced SB 1366, but the bill struggled to gain support.
- March 2015: AB 2291 Reintroduced by Reggie Jones-Sawyer: Later, Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer sponsored the California Online Poker Bill 2017, a reintroduction of AB 2291. And again, it failed to gain approval.
- February 2016: Introduction of AB 167 by Reggie Jones-Sawyer: Next, Jones-Sawyer supported a modified online poker bill, but tribal politics posed obstacles.
- December 2016: Assembly Bill 9 Proposed by Mike Gatto: Assemblyman Mike Gatto introduced his online poker bill, AB 9, but it was unsuccessful.
- February 2017: Introduction of Internet Poker Protection Act: Reggie Jones-Sawyer supported the Internet Poker Protection Act of 2017. After losing momentum, he proposed a cooling-off period in 2018 and 2019, suggesting the possibility of a new California iPoker bill in 2020.
Timeline of California Sports Betting Bills
- May 2018: Repeal of PASPA by US Supreme Court: The US Supreme Court repealed PASPA, which had regulated federal sports betting laws for 25 years. Although it didn’t directly impact gambling laws, it created opportunities for states to license online and mobile sports betting. Some hoped this would help resolve the legal barriers surrounding online poker.
- April 2020: Closure of California Casinos due to COVID-19: At the time, the closure of land-based casinos in California during the COVID-19 pandemic halted discussions on California online poker.
- November 2022: Proposition 26 Defeated: Soon, Native American gaming authorities sought to legalize retail sports betting at tribal casinos and four commercial race tracks. In the end, the bill was defeated in a statewide vote by a 70% to 30% margin.
- November 2022: Proposition 27 Defeated: Simultaneously, they backed a bill to legalize online and mobile sports betting. California residents voted 83% to 17% to reject the proposal.
- Online Poker in 2023: Henceforth, five years after Reggie Jones-Sawyer’s proposed cooling-off period, California seems further away from licensed online poker than at any time in the past ten years.
Best Land-Based Casinos in California
Undeniably, California is known for its tribal casinos. The Golden State has over 120 land-based casinos owned by an array of tribal gaming authorities. Nevertheless, these are massive resorts that rival Las Vegas and Macau for the sheer number of gaming options. Since it’s such a huge state, land-based casinos are spread far and wide.
In brief, here is a small selection of the biggest and best tribal casinos in California.
|Pechanga Resort & Casino||Temecula||5057 slot machines, 198 table games, bingo hall, racebook|
|Yaamava Resort||San Manuel||4700 slot machines, 130 table games|
|Morongo Casino Resort & Spa||Cabazon||4000 slot machines, 80 table games, 10 poker tables|
|Thunder Valley Casino Resort||Lincoln||3500 slot machines, 100 table games, poker room|
|Cache Creek Casino Resort||Brooks (80 Miles from San Francisco)||2900 slot machines, 120 table games, 10 poker tables|
|Barona Casino & Resort||Lakeside||2540 slot machines, 112 table games, 15 poker tables|
|Chumash Casino Resort||Saint Ynez||2484 slot machines, 61 table games, bingo hall|
|Viejas Casino & Turf Club||Alpine||2374 slot machines, 50 table games, racebook|
|Pala Casino Spa & Resort||Pala||2050 slot machines, 85 table games, bingo hall|
|Table Mountain Casino||Friant||2000 slot machines, 33 table games|
|Agua Caliente Rancho Mirage||Rancho Mirage||1450 slot machines, 58 table games, poker room|
|Chukchansi Gold||Coarsegold||1800 slot machines, 36 table games|
|Harrah’s Resort Southern California||Valley Center||1600 slot machines, 60 table games, poker room|
|Spotlight 29 Casino||Coachella||1441 slot machines, 15 table games|
What is Considered a “Bad Actor” in California’s Online Poker Debates?
As per the Pechanga faction and its legal representatives, a “bad actor” refers to a poker company that engaged in dishonest practices during the years when the US government’s stance on the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) included a prohibition on online poker. Between January 2007 and April 2011, certain poker sites accepted real money wagers from American players. Pechanga’s lobbyists argued bad actors were aware that the US deemed online poker an illegal activity. Thus, they disregarded federal law.
The bad actor clause states any poker site that acted in bad faith after UIGEA should be banned from California’s online poker. Alternatively, these companies could face a suspension for a specific number of years and be required to pay a substantial fine. Furthermore, the fine would be in the eight-figure range before being permitted to be a California-licensed online poker site. Certainly, PokerStars was the last active poker company that fell under this definition. In brief, this caused the perception that the proposed legislation aimed at banning PokerStars.
Ultimately, since both sides were unable to reach an agreement regarding the bad actor provision, all attempts to legalize online poker in California failed.
Best Poker Clubs in California
In spite of the competition, California also has several famous poker clubs. These have flourished despite attempts by tribal gaming interests to limit the amount and types of gaming available to them. However, several of the card clubs, especially in the Las Angeles area, host major professional poker events throughout the year.
Hence, here are the best California poker clubs.
Poker Gaming Available
|Bicycle Casino||Bell Gardens||185 card tables|
|The Gardens Casino||Gardena||184 card tables, WPT Gardens Championship|
|Commerce Casino||Commerce||150 card tables, WPT L.A. Poker Classic|
|Hollywood Park Casino||Inglewood||51 card tables|
|Hustler Casino||Gardena||50 card tables|
|Larry Flynt’s Lucky Lady||Gardena||18 card tables|
|Bay 101 Casino||San Jose||49 card tables|
|Artichoke Joe’s Casino||San Bruno||51 card tables|
|500 Club Casino||Clovis||20 card tables|
|California Grand Casino||Pacheco||19 card tables|
|Bankers Casino||Salinas||11 poker tables|
|Ace & Vine Club||Napa||9 card tables|
|Cameo Club||Stockton||8 poker tables|
|California Club Casino||Pacheco||5 card tables|
Best Online Casinos in California
In short, California has balked at licensing online poker and sports betting. What often gets overlooked is the lack of licensed California online casino sites. Once again, the land-based casino interests don’t want Californians to have another way to enjoy casino games.
Despite that, huge numbers of California players joined offshore online casinos and play for real money each year. Thus, here are the best California online casinos that allow real money play.
|Wild Casino||250% up to $5000||Casino Games, Live Dealer Games|
|Slots of Vegas||250% up to $2500||Casino Games|
|Planet 7 Casino||250% up to $2500||Casino Games|
|Las Atlantis Casino||280% up to $14,000||Casino Games|
|Highway Casino||250% up to $1000||Casino Games, Live Dealer Games|
|Super Slots||$6000 Bonus + 100 Free Spins||Casino Games, Live Dealer Games|
California Online Casino FAQ
Is it legal to play for real money at California online casinos?
Even though California online casinos are not regulated, it is not illegal for California residents to play online for real money. Doubtlessly, it would be illegal for Californians to launch their own real money online casinos and make a profit from it. However, authorities do not concern themselves with online gambling that happens in the privacy of a Californian’s home.
In fact, they don’t concern themselves with California mobile casinos, either. If you gamble on the go on your iPhone or Android phone throughout the day, it’s none of the business of California regulators. They don’t charge, fine, or prosecute individuals who gamble online at offshore gaming sites.
What is the best online casino for California players?
Unquestionably, our pick at the moment is Wild Casino, which has a 250% welcome bonus of up to $5000. Wild Casino features over 400 casino games and a full assortment of live dealer games. Las Atlantis Casino is a great option for bonus shoppers with its $14,000 welcome bonus package, though it doesn’t have a live casino. Finally, the newly-launched Comic Play Casino is also a great option because it offers 30 different bonus promotions right now.
Why did Californians reject online sports betting in 2022?
The sports betting measures, Proposition 26 and Proposition 27, always faced an uphill battle. In spite of $460 million spent by both sides (most on the “Yes” side), it failed to gain public support. Proposition 26 would have allowed land-based sports betting, while Prop 27 would have allowed online and mobile sports betting.
Undoubtedly, Democrats who govern California were neutral on the ballot measures. Gov. Gavin Newsom did not support either side, though he did say that Proposition 27 was “not a homeless measure”. That was a reference to the “Yes” side’s argument that sports betting tax revenues would go to help the homeless of California.
The “No on Prop 26” campaign fought back by stating it would help a handful of wealthy tribes gain “a virtual monopoly on all gaming in California.” Meanwhile, the “No on Prop 27” campaign used the devastating (and arguably offensive) talking point. They said Prop 27 proponents, “Didn’t write it for the homeless, they wrote it for themselves.”
Without a doubt, California voters saw it that way. With so much gambling in the state already, it appeared voters did not want further expansion.
Will California regulate online casinos in the future?
While California lawmakers might legalize and regulate online casinos in some distant future, nothing is imminent. In fact, nothing is on the distant horizon. California has a lot of land-based casinos. Like Nevada, states with a lot of vested interests in the land-based gambling industry don’t want the competition. Therefore, they don’t have online casino gambling. If you build a billion-dollar resort, you’d rather people visit the resort. Certainly, that applies to gambling but also to other attractions.
Readers might think that land-based casinos would want to tap the potential for online casino gambling. On the whole, many people never visit a land-based casino. Even if that sentiment existed among certain operators, it is unlikely most of them could agree on a framework. Certainly, the inability of tribal operators to agree on online poker is a good indication of what would happen.