State-level regulations are rather permissive in California – participating in illegal gambling as a player is considered a misdemeanor and there are no laws criminalizing the act of playing real money games online. Consequently, local gamblers don’t have to worry about being prosecuted if they decide to join an offshore in
ternet casino, sportsbook or poker site. However, it’s worth pointing out that many counties have their own local gambling-related regulations, so if you want to stay perfectly safe, you should familiarize yourself with those regulations before you take your hobby online.
Choosing a quality site isn’t as hard as it seems – in most cases going for reputable, high-traffic sites are guaranteed to get the best results regardless of the form of gambling that you’d like to try. For example, poker rooms that receive a lot of traffic offer better cash games and higher tournament prizes. Popular casinos, on the other hand, are able to afford more lucrative welcome bonuses, while popular sportsbooks tend to have better prices, event coverage and, in some cases, reduced juice promotions.
Contrary to popular belief, on a federal level, there are no laws that prohibit you from participating in legally licensed online gaming websites. In fact, the United States Department of Justice has previously stated that each individual state possesses the authority to determine their own legislation as it pertains to both land and online gambling.
There are two important pieces of legislation that have dictated the federal government’s stance on online gaming, and how online casinos operate and circumnavigate certain gray areas.
The first relates to sports betting. The Federal Wire Act of 1961 bans wire communications to be used to place a bet on a sporting event or contest. Up until now, the federal government was including bets on “games of chance” such as online casino games and poker under this law. The Department of Justice released their formal opinion stating that the law only applies to wire communications pertaining to a “sporting event or contest”, thus not including online casino games or poker in their publicly released opinion.
The second relates to how online casinos process transactions. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 made it illegal for banks to process transactions associated with online gaming. This does not pertain to any transaction made by players, such as deposits, but it merely prohibits banks and payment services from processing withdrawals and deposits from online gaming sites. You’ll see several online casinos operating today, but many are based offshore so that are not subject to this law.
To date, only Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have officially legalized and determined a system to regulate online gambling. One important factor requires that you reside in one of these states to be able to participate in their state-regulated online casinos and poker rooms.
Many states are aiming to follow the precedent set by Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey, including California. California is the largest state with a population of over 39 million and is a very important market for gambling operators.
There are no written laws in the state of California that forbid or officially regulate online gambling. You will not be prosecuted for any crimes, so long as you meet the age requirement, which is 21 years of age.
For years now the state has struggled to pass official legislation to regulate web-based gaming. Many of the state’s legislators are in favor of regulation, but continue to struggle to find common ground. In 2013, the state introduced California Senate Bill 51. It aims to authorize intrastate online gaming, including internet poker, through licensed websites.
The Authorization and Regulation of Internet Poker and Consumer Protection Act of 2013 has also been introduced to state legislators. It essentially mandates players to be 21 years of age to play online poker, and provides financial safeguards for online players.
Years later, Assemblyman Adam Gray introduced bill AB 2863 that passed through the Assembly Appropriation Committee. The bill’s aim to legalize and regulate online poker in the state. There have been several points of contention that have come up as many feel the fines in place are too small and should be increased. However, the bill did receive the approval from the Poker Players Alliance.
The Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2013 would legally permit gaming operators of California reservation casinos and commercial card rooms to offer online poker to state residents and visitors physically present in California during their poker session. The bill was approved by eight California Indian tribes and would require the state to opt out of any future legislation pertaining to online gambling passed by the federal government.
As previously indicated, there are still no fully enacted laws establishing official regulations of online gaming and poker, but you can see that the topic is one that has caused much debate for years. Many gaming operators and players are closely monitoring the aforementioned bills and future proposals to see what the outcome will be for the state and how it will impact the state’s gaming industry.
Sports betting is viewed differently by the federal government and currently, it is illegal in the state of California. In fact, only Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon are exempt from federal laws related to online sports betting. Many California players flock to sportsbooks on sites such as Bovada, BetOnline, Sportsbetting.ag, and BookMaker.eu as these sites operate offshore.
For a full reference to online casinos that accept U.S. players, you can visit our online casino page.
There are three major groups voicing their concerns and interests with respect to regulation with online gambling and poker: Native Americans, card rooms, and racetracks.
Historically, gambling has provided viable employment and valuable revenue for Native American tribes that operate casinos. For years Native Americans have argued that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) exempts tribes from obeying the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIEGA) as they are operating as sovereign tribes.
In 2014, a federal judge shut down the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel’s (a California tribe) online bingo and poker site stating that the UIGEA superseded the IGRA, and deemed online gaming casinos illegal in California. Thus, further complicating the current state of online gaming in California, and contributing to the many gray areas and flaws in the current system.
Commercial card rooms are allowed in California, as long as they comply with the state’s regulations and laws and obtain a valid state gambling license. All controlled games such as pai-gow and poker, and jackpots, bonuses, tournaments must be approved by the Bureau of of Gambling Control. They also must comply with any local ordinances. One key difference between card rooms and Vegas-style casinos is, California card rooms charge players a fee to play and card rooms earn revenue from those fees.
Card rooms not only have to adhere to specific guidelines for their land-based gambling operations, they are competing to maintain a stake in the future regulation of web-based gambling to put themselves in position to benefit from any future laws and not lose any stake in the gaming industry to competitors such as Native American tribes.
Many of the state’s racetracks are also attempting to claim a stake in online regulation, particularly online poker, as they recognize the importance of the online market. At least one piece of legislation to date has demanded the inclusion of the state’s racetracks. If the state passes any law that does not allow racetracks to operate online gaming and poker, they would like to be compensated as a result of not being included.
Play money online casinos are casinos that offer slot machine games, table games and poker games utilizing “play money chips. Sometimes sites ask that you purchase additional play money chips to access certain games or to unlock particular aspects of an individual game. Play money sites offer a free-play experience for those looking to practice or enjoy the thrill of gaming without the risk of real money. There are no cash-outs available for wins.
There are a handful of California casinos that offer play money gaming on their websites.
Harrah’s Resort Southern California: Harrah’s has a physical location in Valley Center, CA, and also offers play money gaming on their website. Part of Caesars Entertainment, Harrah’s website allows players to earn credits by playing poker, slots, and bingo.
Hollywood Casino Jamul-San Diego: The Hollywood Casino in San Diego offers players online slots, free, with play money on their website. You can choose from classic reel slots and newer online slots, and you can move up various levels depending on the number of credits you earn to unlock different games.
San Manuel Casino: The San Manuel Casino is owned and operated by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, a Californian Native American tribe in San Bernardino County. Their website offers play money gaming for slots, table games, poker, and bingo. They host various tournaments and have a play money loyalty program where you can gain access to exclusive games and new releases.
As each election year passes, California continues to be at a standstill in terms of approving legislation and acquiring the necessary amount of votes to enact online gambling regulation. There are several companies and tribes with invested interest such as Commerce, The Bicycle, Hawaiian Gardens Casino, The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, and The Morongo Band of Mission Indians.
The tribal casinos possess tremendous leverage and influence and mostly oppose a state-regulated system for online gaming. Card rooms are working towards representing their interests in future legislation, while racetracks seek inclusion or compensation for exclusion. Until an agreement is met, California residents do have several options for live play and are encouraged to look for online casinos accepting U.S players. For a list of live play casinos in California, visit our casino guide here.
How Do I Get Started?
You don’t have to be present in California in order to create an offshore real money gambling account. All you need to do is prepare all the necessary personal information, visit the site in question, click on the registration button and fill out all the necessary forms. Once your account has been approved by the site’s staff, you should make your first deposit by opening the cashier menu, choosing the welcome bonus that you’d like to use and picking the payment method from a drop-down list.
How Do I Get My Money if I Win?
The money that you transfer to your gambling site remains at your disposal, almost like the cash tied to an e-wallet or an online banking account. If you want to withdraw, open the cashier menu, select the cash out method and wait for the site’s staff to process your request. Most players receive their payouts within two weeks if they decide to go for the standard wire transfer.
What is the minimum age to gamble online in California?
California-friendly sites accept all customers that are at least 18 years old. The gambling age for land-based casinos ranges from 18 to 21, depending on the venue in question.
How do I open an account?
All you need to do is visit the site that you wish to join and fill out a short registration form by providing some basic personal information. You’ll also have to provide the site’s staff with proof of identity if you’d like to play real money games.
Where can I open my account from?
California-facing sites allow their customers to set up their accounts from anywhere in the United States.
From where can I access California online gambling sites?
Most of the California-friendly sites can be accessed from anywhere in the country and, in some cases, even from abroad. Please note that you should be very careful about playing from states that have strict anti-gambling regulations, such as Washington or Utah.
Where can I familiarize myself with the official regulations over gambling in California?
All gambling-related regulations are available in the California Code.
How do I deposit to my online gambling account?
US-facing sites rely on standard credit card payments. We recommend MasterCard and Visa for maximum reliability.
How do I withdraw my winnings?
You’re free to choose between a wire transfer and a check by courier.
Is my money safe?
Yes, your money will be perfectly safe as long as you stick to reputable sites, such as the ones we’ve listed here.
What body regulates gambling in California?
California has four regulatory bodies that oversee gambling within the borders of the state: California Division of Gambling Control, California Gambling Control Commission, California Lottery and California Horse Racing Board.