California Real Money Online Gambling Guide

California is as liberal of a state as they come as far as land-based poker rooms go, and have by far the most of them in the country. California also has a huge number of Indian casinos, for those who prefer slots and casino games, and there’s a huge amount of both. Californians also love playing online poker, online casino games, and placing online sports bets, and we’ll show you the best places to enjoy all of this for Californians.

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Overview of Online Gambling in California

While many states are grappling with the issue of gambling within their borders, California’s situation is perhaps the most interesting. California has been very permissive when it comes to certain types of gambling such as poker, but remain opposed to other forms such as traditional casino games.

California may remain obtrusive in maintaining their particular quirks concerning what they feel is appropriate and not appropriate to be offered on lands within their legal jurisdiction, but they are at least far more open to what they will give their approval with as long as it is being run on tribal lands outside their legal purview.

It is of benefit to players to at least have a good understanding of what is really going on with the gambling scene of their state, and especially not be prone to myths such as their being any law at all restricting the ability of Californians to gamble online at sites outside of the state. While they may be waiting for regulated online poker and sports betting to arrive, they need to realize that this only applies to operations being hosted in California, and has nothing to do with players themselves, who are free to enjoy the plethora of sites available to them located outside the state.

California does host a great number of land-based casinos, both off-reservation regulated card rooms and the state’s many Indian casinos, as well as being able to play the state lottery and bet at one of the state’s many horse racing tracks. We cover the entire gambling scene in California here for you as well as answer popular questions.

History of Gambling in California

California Online Casinos and GamblingCalifornia has a rich gambling history dating all the way back to the early frontier days. All these years later, California is still the poker capital of the United States, a movement which was well underway even before it became a state in 1850.

Throughout California’s history, its many card rooms have flourished, While other states may have had a history of frontier card games being played in saloons that later became opposed and outlawed, the state of California has not waivered in their support of their card rooms, even though they have struggled with permitting other forms of gambling, including many casino games.

Just like you could visit a California town during the gold rush days and visit an establishment that allowed you to play cards for money, you can do the same thing today, although things are far more organized and regulated than in the old days where you often not only had to be good or lucky but good with a gun as well.

Other forms of gambling took longer to become legal in California, with betting on horses being first permitted in 1933, as well as their rolling out their state lottery in 1984, starting out modestly with scratch tickets and evolving into a $7 billion a year enterprise that is used significantly to fund public education.

The 1980’s also brought the state its first tribal run gambling, where several tribes set up bingo halls which allowed people to gamble at bingo for real money. The State of California tried to shut them down, but lost a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case which allowed Indian tribes to offer gambling on their lands without interference from the state.

This decision gave birth to tribal gaming in the United States in general, and in California, these tribes ended up forming an alliance with the State and reached a compromise on the games they could offer, where the tribes expanded from bingo into various card games but modified their games to suit the State’s preference for cards, where they adapted popular table games like roulette by using cards and later tiles. This allowed for the State to regulate these tribal casinos and provide the gambling public with a higher level of confidence that this oversight provides.

California has resisted expanding their regulating gambling beyond the card game motif and has maintained this dual system of regulation ever since. There has been plenty of talk surrounding regulating sports betting and online gambling, but lobbying from existing stakeholders such as card rooms and tribal casinos has kept things stuck in the mud for now.

California Key Facts

  • Abbreviation: CA
  • State Motto: Eureka
  • Capital City: Sacramento
  • Largest City: Los Angeles
  • Population Estimate: 39.6 Million (1st)
  • Website:

California Gambling Laws

California does a lot of things differently than elsewhere in the country, and the state’s approach to card rooms versus other forms of land-based gambling is a curious one. Even after all these years, California’s legal approach to real money gambling still looks strikingly similar to the frontier days, where poker is openly welcomed but other games normally found in casinos are explicitly prohibited.

This list of prohibited games still have games on the books that haven’t been played in over a century, such as faro, and you still can’t play faro or some of these other games legally even though people would have to do internet research to figure out how these games were played in days or yore.

This list also includes the popular casino games of roulette and “twenty-one,” the original name for blackjack, and also includes “any banking or percentage game played with cards or dice.” This provision is designed to exclude any game where the house takes a percentage of amounts staked, whether that be by way of taking percentage of pots with poker, called the rake, or any game designed to retain portions of betting by having the house “bank” the game, where they take an active role like all traditional casino games do.

How California fits the playing of poker or other card games into this scheme is to require the players to bank games themselves, where operators have no financial stake in the outcome of games but instead charge an hourly fee. There is a rationale of sorts at work here, where it is felt that the house running games may have them encouraging the betting as well as having the potential to create unfavorable odds for players, as is the custom with casino gambling.

Other explicitly-permitted games such as the state lottery or pari-mutuel horse race betting are made available, but California does not permit other forms of casino games or sports betting. Slots are explicitly outlawed, and sports betting has been trying to get off the ground lately. They came close in 2020, but just like with the battle with trying to legislate online poker, the State could not reach enough consensus with the Indian tribes who would be offering it, and the issue has now been tabled once again.

The State of California did end up coming to an agreement with the tribes after it was found by the courts to not have any legal authority over gambling on tribal lands. This agreement does allow for state officials to inspect and regulate Indian real money casinos in California, who in turn adjusted their game offerings to better comply with the desires of the State.

For example, roulette is prohibited in California, but so are slot machines. Indian casinos offer a massive number of slots, and this issue needed to be set aside, although the State of California does not have any legal power over tribal gambling and any arrangement must be voluntary. The Indians agreed to change the game of roulette a bit by calling it something else and using cards on their roulette wheels, where the dealer turns over a tile on the wheel now to reveal the number, making it distinct enough from the banned “roulette” to make everyone happy.

As silly as this may seem, this and other quarks that have been implemented has made the State happier and the tribes continue to enjoy their monopoly over the majority of real money gambling in California that has fallen to them due to the State not being willing to expand gambling regulation in the state generally.

Land-Based Gambling in California

The California Lottery has thrived since the mid-1980s and takes in $7 billion a year in revenue, so this is big business. Lotteries have become so ubiquitous that people don’t tend to even think of this as gambling anymore, due to lotteries being so widely seen as permissible, in contrast to other forms which may be seen as more contentious among the pubic and legislators.

While betting on horse races isn’t welcomed quite as widely as the lottery is in California and elsewhere, it has a long and rich history in California, being offered since all the way back in 1933. Just like the lottery, the topic of the permissibility of pari-mutuel betting just doesn’t come up, and both of these are non-contentious. You have to go to the track to bet though, another quirk.

California has 90 card rooms that operate in their state, which collectively take in $1 billion in revenue per year. Given California’s historical love of poker and distaste for other casino games, it hasn’t taken a lot of lobbying by card room owners to keep the state on the straight and narrow as far as only permitting their style of casino gambling and outlawing all other forms.

This journey did hit a roadblock once the Supreme Court decided that the State of California does have the legal power to regulate gambling on tribal lands, and after this decision, these tribes went from just offering bingo for money and built full-fledged casinos. It is like there are two different jurisdictions involved, the state itself and the tribal lands, but these two distinct entities have managed to sign a peace treaty of sorts which ended up with the tribes holding tremendous power over gambling in California.

Any changes to gambling law in California now has to have consensus agreement among the state’s tribes, which do not act together but instead have divergent and opposing opinions on how to proceed with these changes. Progress toward change has therefore come very slowly, and the state is a long way away from licensing and regulating actual casinos in the state, although the Indian casinos in themselves has allowed for a great expansion of the casino market in the state.

Indian casinos in California have now collectively grown to be as big as all the casinos on the Las Vegas strip, with revenues now up to $7 billion a year, now as big as the California Lottery as well. These casinos may not be very big, but they are everywhere, within easy driving distance of just about everyone in the state. Californians used to be limited to travelling to Las Vegas to gamble at casinos, but no more.

  • List of Land Based Casinos in California
    Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa32-250 Bob Hope Dr, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270888-999-1995
    Augustine Casino84-001 Avenue 54, Coachella, CA 92236760-391-9500
    Barona Resort & Casino1932 Wildcat Canyon Rd, Lakeside, CA 92040619-443-2300
    Bear River Casino11 Bear Paws Way, Loleta, CA 95551707-733-9644
    Bear River Pump and Play10 Bear Paws Way, Loleta, CA 95551707-733-9646
    Black Oak Casino19400 Tuolumne Rd N, Tuolumne, CA 95379877-747-8777
    Blue Lake Casino777 Casino Way, Blue Lake, CA 95525707-668-9770
    Blue Lake Playstation 777Play Station, 777 Casino Way #777, Blue Lake, CA 95525707-668-5777
    Cache Creek Casino14455 CA-16, Brooks, CA 95606530-796-3118
    Cahuilla Casino52702 CA-371, Anza, CA 92539951-763-1200
    Casino Pauma777 Pauma Reservation Rd, Pauma Valley, CA 92061877-687-2862
    Cher-Ae Heights Bingo & Casino27 Scenic Dr, Trinidad, CA 95570707-677-3611
    Chicken Ranch Casino16929 Chicken Ranch Rd, Jamestown, CA 95327209-984-3000
    Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino711 Lucky Ln, Coarsegold, CA 93614866-794-6946
    Chumash Casino Resort3400 CA-246, Santa Ynez, CA 93460805-686-0855
    Cloverdale Rancheria Destination Resort & Casino555 S Cloverdale Blvd # 2, Cloverdale, CA 95425707-894-5775
    Colusa Casino Resort3770 CA-45, Colusa, CA 95932530-458-8844
    Coyote Valley Casino77 BIA Rd 228, Redwood Valley, CA 95470707-485-0700
    Desert Rose Casino901 Co Rd 56, Alturas, CA 96101530-233-3141
    Diamond Mountain Casino900 Skyline Rd, Susanville, CA 96130530-252-1100
    Eagle Mountain Casino681 S Reservation Rd, Porterville, CA 93257800-903-3353
    Elk Valley Casino2500 Howland Hill Rd, Crescent City, CA 95531707-464-1020
    Fantasy Springs Casino84-245 Indio Springs Pkwy, Indio, CA 92203760-342-5000
    Feather Falls Casino & Lodge3 Alverda Dr, Oroville, CA 95966530-533-3885
    Garcia River Casino22215 Windy Hollow Rd, Point Arena, CA 95468707-467-5300
    Golden Acorn Casino1800 Golden Acorn Way, Campo, CA 91906619-938-6000
    Gold Country Casino4020 Olive Highway, Oroville, CA 95966530-534-9892
    Graton Resort & Casino288 Golf Course Dr W, Rohnert Park, CA 94928707-588-7100
    Hard Rock Casino Sacramento3317 Forty Mile Rd, Wheatland, CA 95692833-337-3473
    Harrah's Northern California Casino4640 Coal Mine Rd, Ione, CA 95640866-915-0777
    Harrah's Resort Southern California777 S Resort Dr, Valley Center, CA 92082760-751-3100
    Havasu Landing Resort & Casino13145 Havasu Lake Road Havasu Lake, CA 92363760-858-4593
    Hidden Oaks Casino77285 Commercial St, Covelo, CA 95428707-983-6898
    Hopland Sho-Ka-Wah Casino13101 Nokomis Rd, Hopland, CA 95449707-744-1395
    Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort12222 New York Ranch Rd, Jackson, CA 95642800-822-9466
    Jamul Casino14145 Campo Rd, Jamul, CA 91935619-315-2250
    Konocti Vista Casino Resort, Marina & RV Park2755 Mission Rancheria Rd, Lakeport, CA 95453707-262-1900
    La Jolla Trading Post & Casino22003 CA-76, Pauma Valley, CA 92061,760-742-0460
    Lucky 7 Casino350 N Indian Rd, Smith River, CA 95567707-487-7777
    Lucky 7 Fuel Mart13450 US-101, Smith River, CA 95567707-487-0676
    Mono Wind Casino37302 Rancheria Ln, Auberry, CA 93602559-825-4480
    Morongo Casino Resort Spa address49750 Seminole Drive, Cabazon, CA 92230800-252-4499
    Morongo Travel Center49020 Seminole Dr, Cabazon, CA 92230951-849-2895
    Wanaaha Casino2742 N Sierra Hwy, Bishop, CA 93514760-873-4150
    Pala Casino Spa Resort11154 CA-76, Pala, CA 92059877-946-7252
    Pechanga Resort & Casino45000 Pechanga Pkwy, Temecula, CA 92592877-711-2946
    Pit River Casino20265 Tamarack Ave, Burney, CA 96013530-335-2334
    Rain Rock Casino777 Casino Way, Yreka, CA 96097530-777-7246
    Red Earth Casino3089 Norm Niver Rd, Thermal, CA 92274760-395-1200
    Red Fox Casino200 Cahto Dr, Laytonville, CA 95454707-984-6800
    Red Hawk Casino1 Red Hawk Boulevard, Placerville, CA 95667888-573-3495
    River Rock Casino3250 Highway 128 East, Geyserville, CA 95441707-857-2777
    Robinson Rancheria Resort & Casino1545 State Hwy 20, Nice, CA 95464707-262-4000
    Running Creek Casino635 State Hwy 20, Upper Lake, CA 95485707-262-5500
    San Manuel Casino777 San Manuel Blvd, Highland, CA 92346800-359-2464
    San Pablo Lytton Casino13255 San Pablo Ave, San Pablo, CA 94806510-215-7888
    Sherwood Valley Casino100 Kawi Pl, Willits, CA 95490707-459-7330
    Spotlight 29 Casino46-200 Harrison Pl, Coachella, CA 92236760-775-5566
    Soboba Casino23333 Soboba Road, San Jacinto, CA 92581951-665-1000
    Sycuan Casino5469 Casino Way, El Cajon, CA 92019619-445-6002
    Table Mountain Casino8184 Table Mountain Rd, Friant, CA 93626559-822-7777
    Tachi Palace Casino Resort17225 Jersey Ave, Lemoore, CA 93245559-924-7751
    Thunder Valley Casino Resort1200 Athens Ave, Lincoln, CA 95648916-408-7777
    Tortoise Rock Casino73829 Baseline Rd, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277760-367-9759
    Twin Pine Casino22223 CA-29, Middletown, CA 95461707-987-0197
    Viejas Casino5000 Willows Rd, Alpine, CA 91901619-445-5400
    Win-River Resort & Casino2100 Redding Rancheria Rd, Redding, CA 96001530-243-3377
    Winnedumah Win's Casino135 US-395, Independence, CA 93526760-878-2483

California Online Casinos & Slots Gambling

Online gambling legislation and regulation in the United States is rife with myth, with the first big one being that this is something that is ever decided at the federal level. States decide these matters completely on their own, and California simply does not have any applicable laws or regulations that pertain to this.

Online gambling is often not just black and white though, and some have mistakenly interpreted California law that prohibits gambling machines as applying to online gambling as well. It is against the law to possess a device that permits money to be staked on it. This would apply to a slot machine for instance, but some think that it also would apply to using a computer or mobile device to wager.

This would be a ridiculous interpretation, as if true, this would make possession of these devices illegal in themselves, because they could be used to make such wagers. The wagering itself isn’t made a misdemeanor by this law, it is the possession of devices used to this that is the crime here, but only ones who are designed for this wagering, not just ones that allow you to do a great many things including wagering.

There is no state or federal law preventing Californians from gambling online as much as they wish, as opposed to some states such as Washington having explicit laws against it or other states having laws that might be interpreted as preventing it depending on the particular reading of the law that you use. The role of courts is to interpret the law, and this is often a difficult task that can also be very much colored by the personal beliefs of the judiciary, but this is all black and white in California, and it’s all white.

The regulatory part of this is very much in state control within the state, who they may issue licenses to in order to engage in online or any form of gambling that is hosted in a state, and these things are fully at the pleasure of the state. Nevada, for instance, has seen fit to allow for online gambling operations to operate out of their state, but California hasn’t come to that decision yet, and are still working with the tribal stakeholders to put together a licensing scheme.

While tribal casinos have the legal power to offer whatever form of gambling that they want on their own lands, if they forage off on their own, without the ascent of the state government, this will result in a break in the peace of sorts that they enjoy with the state, with several important potential issues. The state could take measures to impede this, and such a scenario could also place the sweet deal that the status quo provides these tribes at some risk.

Other state guides
Future of Gambling in California

Perhaps ironically, with billions more potentially on the line, the reason why we don’t have online poker and sports betting in California yet has completely come down to the tribes failing to reach an agreement among themselves. This just keeps being pushed down the road at the present time with no end to the disputes in sight.

The regulation of California-based online poker sites has been particularly contentious, and where poker is concerned, the State has taken sides on this as well, being fussy on which companies they wish to allow to participate in any new licensing scheme. Popular sites like Poker Stars have been smeared by accusations of being “bad actors,” which results not from their actually being bad actors but by way of a fundamental misunderstanding of how the law applies to gambling in the United States.

We may assume that state legislators would be familiar enough with the law to be aware that PokerStars and others did not run afoul of the law by continuing to offer play to Californians post-UIGEA, as this did not speak to the legality of this, nor has any federal law. There was no applicable law at all that applied here. We may expect lay people to be confused by these things, but it is inexcusable that state legislators hold such fundamental misunderstandings of the law.

As permissive as California has been, in comparison to most other states, California still has a long way to go to open their minds enough to allow reason to play a more prominent role in their approach to gambling. Perhaps the pain of the 2020 lockdown will cause them to think more carefully about their continuing to cling to ideas that benefit no one, where players and operators are both prevented from coming together for freely made economic exchanges that add to the pleasure of the people, contribute to economic and business expansion, and pad the bank accounts of the State.

Consistency is a fundamental principle of the law, and is an absolute requirement in fact. It just isn’t consistent that Californians can enjoy certain forms of gambling but not others, unless you can make a substantial distinction that makes sense of differing regulations. California still has much work to do with understanding this better.

California Online Slots & Casinos FAQs
  • What forms of gambling are available in California?

    California has had legal poker since even before it became a state. California remains the land-based poker capital of the U.S., with many also playing online, although online poker regulation hasn’t come to the state yet. Players can also enjoy the state’s many Indian casinos, which do a huge business, as well as playing the state lottery, betting at one of the state’s many horse racing tracks, and even bet on sports and play real money casino games online at one of a great many out of state sites.

  • Who do California online casinos & gambling laws really pertain to?

    Although the California penal code does provide a list of prohibited types of wagers that can neither be held or played in California, this law only really has the power to prohibit the hosting of prohibited games within their jurisdiction. Otherwise, all of the gambling that occurs at tribal casinos would be illegal, as they could be forced to permit tribal operators but prohibit non-tribal residents from playing there. If the operator is operating legally, this preempts any question of the play offered being illegal. The law therefore only really applies to who they allow to offer gambling.

  • What is the difference between legal, regulated, and prohibited gambling?

    Many people confuse the terms legal, regulated, and prohibited. Regulated gambling is permitted and controlled, like the card rooms here are. Prohibited involves specific gambling-related activities that it is illegal to engage in, like offering slot machines off of tribal land. Legal does not mean regulated, it means a lack of legal prohibition. Legal literally means not illegal by way of law, like Californians placing bets on sporting events at sites operating outside California.

  • Why does California not permit traditional real money casino games?

    California’s gambling permissiveness came out of the saloon games of the Old West, which pitted players against each other directly in poker games. Although the State has always warmly welcomed this form of gambling, they continue to object to games where gambling operators are active participants, which is the case with all casino games. While this is seen to protect players, it ignores the principle of informed consent where players are allowed to choose the suitability of a form of gambling themselves.

  • How can Indian tribes offer casino games while other Californians cannot?

    Indian reservations are deemed to be on federal and not state land, meaning that they are immune from certain state laws and regulations. The federal government, by way of the Constitution, defers to states in matters of commerce, and Indian tribes were afforded the same privilege by the courts. Once the State of California lost this fight, the opposing parties decided to co-operate to further their mutual interests, and the State and the tribal gaming providers now work closely with one another.

  • What control does the State of California have over tribal gaming?

    The State of California actually does not have any say in tribal gaming that occurs within state borders, because control of this has been given over to the tribes by way of federal law, the division of powers under the Constitution, and by way of judicial decision. Tribal casinos have chosen by way of free will to agree to certain compromises in their gaming, even though this is really just a façade, playing craps with cards instead of dice for instance. It’s a facade that the State appreciates, and that does matter to the tribes as they seek to take advantage of state co-operation to expand their enterprises further.

  • How long before California gets online gambling regulation?

    Californians do not actually have to wait for regulation in order to bet online for real money, although they have been waiting for quite some time for California to finally regulate online gambling. The bid to regulate online poker has been at an impasse for several years now, with no real end in sight. California came close to regulating sports betting, but that has now been delayed until 2022 or 2023 at the earliest. California at least has the will for this, but getting stakeholders to agree enough on how to proceed remains a significant challenge.

  • Can Californians gamble online now?

    Online gambling has dramatically changed the nature of gambling, where we now can travel to far-flung locales electronically. Californians have travelled to Las Vegas since it opened, where it is legal and regulated, and whether it is or not in California is of no consequence. This is the case as well when we travel outside the state to gamble online, and these sites are indeed legal and regulated elsewhere. The State has the power to regulate real money gambling in California, but not gambling that occurs outside the state and outside its reach.

  • How can California improve land-based gambling?

    It may be seen as just to see Indian tribes benefit so much from tribal gaming, and California may indeed have this as a political preference, but we need to understand that justifying this duality is limited to this. California law was crafted for a time long ago, and as permissive as California is, their view is still rife with paternalistic biases that have just persisted and haven’t been re-thought. If people are gambling at Indian casinos, we should need a good reason why we do not allow this on non-tribal lands. California also needs to revisit their peculiar tastes in certain games and govern this by way of principle as well.

  • How may California improve real money online gambling in the state?

    It is not that online gambling will come to California if and when the State finally passes a law to regulate it, as it already exists, but this would certainly expand the market. The big way that this will improve things is to allow players to place financial transactions much more easily, with their options not being as limited as they are now with most methods being unavailable. While California has been open-minded toward poker and sports betting, they also need to open their minds to casino games as well and not try to limit this just to the land-based casinos they currently have.


Chief Editor: Mike leverages his true passion for online gambling to create a uniquely informative site that takes players well beyond the standard fare in the industry.