A Guide to Gambling in California

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Famous for its laidback lifestyle and for being the most populated state in the country, California, unfortunately, has some strict laws on gambling. Most forms of casinos, slot machines, and horse race betting are not permitted in the state and there are restrictions on how and where you can place sports bets. However, there are still tribal casinos and Poker rooms that allow lots of different types of gambling. Online gambling is mostly prohibited, but players can still enjoy sweepstakes sites and fantasy sports sites to win real money.

In this guide, you’ll be able to learn more about the rules and requirements of gambling in California. Whether you live in California or are just visiting, it pays to know all the rules relating to gambling, especially if you enjoy playing at casinos and placing bets. We’ll cover everything from online gambling and casinos to sports betting, lottery, and Bingo. This guide will also cover the different rules to watch out for, whether players can get in trouble for gambling in California, and the history of gambling in the Golden State.

If you’re new to gambling and want to get involved, there are lots of ways you can start. Simply take a look at our full guide to learn more about gambling in California and the laws in place. You can learn everything there is no know about gambling in the Golden State and ensure that you can play safely and have fun without worrying about the law.

Online Gambling and California Law

While many other US states are starting to legalize online gambling, for now at least, it remains restricted in California. Online casinos, online Poker, and online sports betting are all against the law currently although some sites have found a way around these laws by setting up sweepstake sites.

Online Poker has been a topic of conversation between California lawmakers for many years. While the benefits of increased tax revenues make a great case for the legalization of online Poker, lawmakers have so far remained firm on their decision. Land-based Poker at the many Poker rooms around the state is legal and popular but online Poker has been suggested multiple times and so far, hasn’t been accepted.

Online sports betting was only recently made federally legal and many states are starting to legalize it fully. So far, however, sports betting fans in California haven’t had much luck. Bills that would allow sports betting sites to operate within California have been rejected several times, leaving it in a similar position to legal online Poker.

Finally, online casinos have so far been untouched by California lawmakers. It seems unlikely that online casinos will be legalized anytime soon as both online sportsbooks and Poker sites have failed to gain any traction in the state. For now, gamblers in California have to make do with the tribal casinos or by playing at Sweepstake casino sites.

Is Online Gambling Legal in California?

Right now, no forms of online gambling are permitted by the state of California. However, players can get around this by playing at Sweepstake sites and fantasy sports sites.

Sweepstakes sites are an interesting way of circumnavigating the online gambling laws and these sites are popular among players in California and other places across the US. These sites offer casino games or Poker just as you would find at online casinos and Poker sites. However, they don’t operate like traditional real-money gambling sites.

Players can still win real money at sweepstake sites but instead of depositing money, need to buy coins. These coins can then be wagered on games and if a player wins, they can exchange their coins for prizes. Essentially, they work in a similar way to casino chips.

Fantasy sports sites are an alternative to online sports betting and have become remarkably popular across the US. In California, players can sign up to a site and enter into one of the hundreds of thousands of competitions. Build your fantasy team and compete with other players to win real cash prizes.

Some players also choose to sign up to offshore online casinos or sportsbooks which aren’t legal in California. Although it’s possible to play lots of different casino games and bet on many different sports, signing up for an off-shore casino is ill-advised. Because the sites aren’t licensed in California, your money isn’t protected and there’s no way to know what the site is fair to use.

Can I get Arrested for Gambling Online in California?

No, while it isn’t legal in California no one has ever been arrested or prosecuted for gambling online. Provided you pay taxes on any winnings you make, you won’t face any legal trouble at all. This goes for both online sweepstake sites, fantasy sports, and even off-shore casinos.

The only way you might face trouble in California related to online gambling is if you tried to open your own casino, sportsbook, or Poker site. Operating an online gambling site in Calfornia is illegal, but actually gambling online itself is not against the law.

More Gambling Laws in California

The laws regarding gambling in California can seem confusing so we’ve broken them down into bullet points to make it easier to understand:

  • Online casinos are not permitted.
  • Online sports betting isn’t permitted.
  • Online Poker is not permitted.
  • Sweepstakes gambling is allowed.
  • Bingo is allowed.
  • State and multi-state run lotteries are allowed.
  • In California, the minimum age to gamble is set at eighteen, however, a lot of casinos and sportsbooks will require you to be twenty-one years or older.
  • Poker rooms are allowed anywhere within the states and there are no restrictions on these provided they’re licensed.
  • Casinos are allowed only on tribal lands.
  • Roulette and Craps are both banned at land-based casinos due to a law regarding dice and ball casino games.

Casino Games

Casino games include the likes of slot machines and table games. At a casino, you’ll always find lots of different varieties of games and the same is true when you play online. Most casinos include lots of different slots plus all the major table casino games such as Blackjack, Baccarat, and other card games more. While slots are all about luck, some table games such as Blackjack combine chance with skill, and provided you know how to play, you can win some big rewards.

In California, casino games can be enjoyed at tribal casinos or if you want to play online, you can sign up to a sweepstake site. Some casino games such as Craps and Roulette aren’t available to play at land-based casinos in California due to rules against certain games.

Slot Machines

Slot machines are one of the most popular types of casino games at any casino with the simple gameplay and high winning potential leading to a thrilling experience. Slot machines can be found at just about every casino in the world and ever since they were invented back in 1894, millions of players have enjoyed them and won loads of prizes.

Since the first slots were invented, technology has changed a lot and today slots can even be played online. Modern online slots feature exceptional graphics, exciting bonus features, and loads of new innovations that help bring more fun to the players. Slot machines can be played at tribal casinos in California but they can also be enjoyed at some sweepstake sites.

Sports Betting

Sports betting has long been popular around the world and in the United States, around $150 billion is gambled on sports each year. In 2018, sports betting was federally legalized by the Supreme Court, giving individual states the permission to allow both online and retail sportsbooks. Since then, lots of states have either fully or partially legalized it.

In California, however, sports betting is still restricted. Residents and visitors to the Golden State can’t place legal sports bets for now. Some Californians still gamble online using offshore sportsbooks and for those that want to play legally, fantasy sports provide a similar experience.

Racing Betting

Horse racing is one of the oldest sports to bet on and is enjoyed in lots of countries all over the world. While horse racing may not be as popular as it once was, betting on the races is still a very popular pastime. In California, parimutuel betting on horse racing is permitted and there are several online platforms that take bets. These platforms need to be officially recognized by the California Horse Racing board.

Those in California can also attend racetracks to place bets and a lot of Californian racetracks will offer online betting services too. Note that you can only bet on horse racing at these sites and you’ll need to use geolocation software to prove you’re in the state before you can bet.


Lotteries are available across multiple states in the US with Mega Millions and state lotteries providing players with a chance to win big prizes each week. A lottery is any type of game where players buy a ticket containing multiple numbers. Once the game starts, numbers are randomly selected and the players who have matched the correct numbers win.

California allows lotteries throughout the state and players can but tickets to the state lottery or other games including Powerball, Super Lotto Plus, and big jackpot lotteries. There are weekly lotteries you can take part in plus several daily lotteries that involve players within the California state.


Bingo is a game that bears a lot of similarities to the lottery in that players buy tickets containing numbers and then match their numbers when the numbers are selected. However, it differs in that it’s a much quicker game and is usually played in Bingo halls or online Bingo rooms. Players join a room, buy however many tickets they like and then wait for their numbers to be called out. The first player to make a line or specific pattern wins the prize.

In California, online Bingo is unfortunately against the law. However, there are lots of Bingo clubs where players can meet and play Bingo for real money prizes. In the United States, Bingo is growing in popularity and lots of new players are finding out just how fun it can be.

Social Gambling

Social gambling usually refers to gambling with friends or family. This can be for real cash or just for fun. In modern terms, it’s usually used to describe playing casino games online against other players without the prospect of winning real money. Lots of social media sites and other platforms offer fun, risk-free casino games that players can enjoy for free.

In California, there are no laws specifically relating to social gambling. This means that it’s effectively legal and both residents and visitors to the state can enjoy gambling online for fun, provided there’s no money involved.

Draw Poker

Draw Poker is a variation of Poker whereby players receive a complete hand and can change it during the rounds by swapping their cards. Draw Poker is a highly popular way to play this classic game because of the skills and strategy involved in knowing when to switch your cards to win the pot.

In California, draw Poker along with all other forms of the game can only be played at Poker rooms. These can be found across the state and let players choose from multiple forms of the classic card game including Pai Gow, Texas Hold ‘Em, and more.

History of Gambling in California

California has a long and rich history in the United States and it’s little surprise that the state also has a long history of gambling. Card games such as Poker and its variations have been popular since the state was first formed and over time, card rooms began to appear all over the state, offering legal Poker games.

California is also the birthplace of the slot machine, with the very first machine being produced in San Francisco all the way back in 1894. Over time, slots and other forms of gambling have grown in popularity and although the state has restricted most forms of wagering, gambling is legal in tribal casinos, Poker rooms, and online sweepstake sites.