California is home to one of the most expansive casino offerings across the United States. While the types of casinos in California vary greatly, you will be able to find them up and down the state, whether you are near the border to Mexico, Canada, or anywhere in between. Many of the casinos in California are not similar to what you would find in a city like Las Vegas. Instead of mega resorts, the majority of these casinos are instead small, and often times they won’t have any machine games whatsoever. A new casino seems to be popping up each year within the state, and California promises to build on its already growing presence in the gaming industry.
There are two, for all intents and purposes, types of casinos that you will find in California. The most common casino will be what many call a card room. These casinos generally offer a few table game variants, namely blackjack, baccarat, and pai gow, with many of them also offering poker. Some of the card room casinos are known primarily for their poker, while others will only manage to get a few low limit poker games going even on their best days. The majority of the card rooms in California tend to be frequented most often by locals in the area. These are not destination resorts, though there are other casinos in CA that do offer hotels and provide accommodations for those looking to make a vacation out of their trip.
The second type of casino is what the average gambler will be much more accustomed to. Casinos on Native American lands within California offer much more than you will ever find in the card room casinos scattered throughout the state. These locations offer everything, including, but not limited to, slots, video poker, blackjack, roulette, and all other popular table games.
The primary difference between Native American casinos and the other casinos in California is their ability to offer machine games, as well as roulette and craps. There is a catch, however, as there are no dice or balls allowed to be used in California casinos. To circumvent this rule, the casinos that offer craps and roulette administer the games with playing cards. Instead of a ball spinning on the roulette table, the croupier will spin the roulette wheel and it will slap all of the playing cards. Your bet is placed by picking the card in which you think it will stop on. The card is then pulled and the winner is revealed.
The excitement of this form of roulette is certainly less than that of the traditional game, but it is popular nonetheless. In craps, the game is again played with cards in lieu of dice. Cards are turned over to reveal the next “roll,” and the game plays accordingly. Generally speaking, the roulette games in California are more similar to regular casino games, while craps plays very differently, in terms of both pace and game action.
If you play in a card room, and then visit a Native American casino, you will notice a striking (and financially damaging) difference. The card rooms charge fees for their games. Usually the fee is around $1 per $100 wager. This means a $25 and $100 blackjack bet would both be subject to a $1 fee. If you bet $200, the fee would be $2, and so on and so forth. Needless to say, these added fees make the games quite difficult to beat, as you are effectively doubling the house edge in many instances.
The card rooms that charge this fee do so because this is their only means of revenue. The card rooms hire outside companies (known as “The Corporation”) to handle all wagers and risks. Since the room does not benefit from any of your potential losses, they only stand to profit based on your wager size and length of play. If you visit a Native American casino, however, these fees do not exist.
Card rooms aside, the greater casinos in California first came to fruition in 2000. Each of the non-card room casinos that you visit today made agreements with the state, and their deals are independent. While there is no shortage of Native American casinos, there are some areas where the competition is much less than others. Within the large state, you may travel two hours and only see one casino, or you may travel 10 minutes and see several, as is the case near Rincon, California, where Harrah’s, Pechanga, Pauma, Valley View, and Pala casinos can all be found within a few minutes of each other.
In addition to card rooms and casinos in California, the state also has a number of horse racing tracks. California is not regarded as a premier destination for horse racing, though Southern California and the Bay Area do have a handful of well known tracks, including Golden Gate Fields near San Francisco and Santa Anita in the Los Angeles area. These tracks also offer parimutuel wagering, and bets can be placed on these races from destinations around the world.
An interesting, and often times surprising, note about California casinos is found in their alcohol offerings. While patrons must be 21 to drink, everyone must pay. The state does not allow free drinks for gamblers, whether you are playing small stakes or high stakes. In addition, guests are not allowed to use their earned comp dollars on alcohol. This is a rule that many new California gamblers find surprising, especially if they have previously visited casinos in other parts of the country, like Atlantic City or Las Vegas.
– In California, you must be 21 years of age to gamble at casinos
– In California, you must also be 21 years of age to drink alcohol at casinos
– Smoking availability is dependent on the casino itself, with some offering designated smoking areas
– Alcohol is never comped in California, for play or via use of comps