California Online Poker: Is Online Poker Legal in CA?
Besides Nevada, California has the largest land-based casino industry in the United States. The Golden State's gaming industry includes a huge list of tribal casinos and commercial poker clubs. It also has pari-mutuel wagering and charitable bingo halls. Despite the huge brick-and-mortar betting industry, residents must play at offshore sites if they want to play online poker in California.
Despite its lack of licensed online poker, California was the first US state to introduce a legalized online poker bill (back in 2011). Over the next 8 years, 4 different state legislators introduced 10 different online poker bills. None of these gained support in the legislature. A big reason California online poker isn't licensed and regulated is its tribal casino industry.
One set of tribes, led by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, signed a deal with PokerStars, the Bicycle Club, and the Commerce Club. If California ever passed online poker legislation, these tribes' land-based casinos -- plus the Bicycle Club and Commerce Club in Los Angeles -- would partner with PokerStars. This would have given the Morongo tribe and its allies a huge advantage in licensed poker online -- which was a huge problem for the remaining California tribal casinos.
A much larger coalition of tribes, led by the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, led an effort to thwart the passage of any regulated poker bill. They supported a "Bad Actor" clause against PokerStars, which would have banned the world's largest poker site from licensed California online poker. Their rationale was based on the fact that PokerStars accepted US players from the passage of UIGEA in 2006 and the Black Friday indictments in 2011. According to the Pechanga tribe and its allies, PokerStars acted as a bad actor and thus should be banned from legal California online poker.
With two vested interests at an impasse, lawmakers never passed bills involving online poker. California lawmakers appear to have given up on passing a poker bill since the last failed attempt in 2018. Californians, therefore, play at offshore online poker sites like Ignition Poker, Bovada Poker, and BetOnline Poker. Our guide to online poker in California provides card players with everything they need to know before signing up at an online cardroom. We'll start with a look at our recommended California online poker sites.
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As far as poker sites go, you want a brand you can trust. With Bovada Poker you get exactly that. Plus, they accept Bitcoin. Choose from your favorite poker games like No-Limit Hold’em and Five-Card Draw, and try your luck at one of their many tournaments. This US-facing site also accepts players from Latin America.
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After launching in 2015, Ignition Poker has quickly become one of the more popular online poker sites on the Internet. With anonymous tables, customized cards and tables, and a fast-fold variation of Zone Poker, players will love this Bitcoin-friendly site. Plus, the sign-up bonus alone is enough to put a smile on your face.
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Whether you’re an advanced poker player or new to the game, BetOnline Poker has you covered. Choose from top poker games like Hold’em and Omaha or try your luck on more advanced games. Considered one of the best online poker sites for players around the world, BetOnline features deposit bonuses and about 300 real-money players online looking for opponents.
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Known for their fast payouts, this is an online poker site not to be missed. Great for players of all levels, Black Chip Poker offers top games like No-Limi Hold’em, Sit & Go, Seven-Card stud and more. There are also tournaments, an ample sign-up bonus, and a Bitcoin-specific match offer that’ll grow your bankroll considerably.
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Online poker sites are a dime a dozen, but Everygame really sets themselves apart with their poker offering. There’s a vast selection of your favorite games and with a streamlined mobile interface, you can play a few hands on your phone while waiting in line at the grocery store. What more could you ask for in an internet poker website?
California Online Poker FAQ
Is Online Poker Legal in California?
No, it isn't. California poker players must play at offshore online cardrooms. California doesn't prosecute individuals who play cards online at these sites, though it has laws on the books that suggest such a player could be fined between $100 to $1,000 for doing so. The main concern California card players have is the fact that offshore sites don't have consumer protections like they would at regulated online poker sites.
What Were Some of the Previous Attempts to Legalize Online Poker in California?
State Senator Roderick Wright sponsored California poker bills in 2010, 2012, and 2013. State Sen. Lou Correa sponsored online poker bills in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer sponsored the poker bill AB 2291 in 2014, along with AB 167 in 2016. He also sponsored the Internet Poker Protection Act in 2017, but recommended a "cooling off period" for online poker legislation in 2018 and 2019. Assemblyman Mike Gatto sponsored AB 9 in December 2016, hoping to reconcile the two sides with the inclusion of daily fantasy sports. Some speculated that legalized sports betting might change the equation after the US Supreme Court struck down PASPA in 2018, but that hasn't proven to be the case.
What is California's bad actor law?
California's bad actor law would have banned PokerStars from its licensed and regulated online poker in California -- either permanently or for a 5 to 10 year period. The rationale is that PokerStars accepted US players from 2006 to 2011 when the US Department of Justice considered online poker a banned activity. Several versions of the bad actor legislation have been forwarded over the years, including those that required PokerStars to pay a huge fine in order to be allowed into California's gaming industry.
How Old Do I Have to Be to Gamble in California?
You'll need to be 18 years old to gamble online in California. If you plan on visiting a land-based tribal casino, take a look at the site's age limit. Many California brick-and-mortar casinos have an age limit of 21, due to the presence of alcohol.
Is Ignition Poker Legal in California?
Ignition Poker isn't licensed by California agencies, but players who bet at Ignition Poker don't face consequences from California agencies. Ignition Poker launched in 2016, when it bought Bovada Poker's card playing community. It's grown since then, making it one of the largest US online poker rooms.
Is BetOnline Poker Legal in California?
BetOnline Poker is legal in California. The state doesn't ban online poker -- California online gambling exists in a legal gray area. While BetOnline isn't licensed by California agencies, those same agencies have never prosecuted or fined a California resident for playing at BetOnline. If an unlicensed site hosted its servers in California, its operators would be subject to prosecution. BetOnline's servers are hosted offshore, which is beyond the reach of California officials.
What is California Lowball?
California Lowball is a variant of table poker in which a player competes against the dealer for the lowest hand possible. Straights and flushes don't count as hands. Both the dealer and the player receive two hole cards apiece, along with three community cards. Players make an ante bet and an extra bonus bet to play. An optional Lowdown Bonus bet also is available.
What's San Francisco Poker?
San Francisco Poker is a version of Seven-Card Stud that's played in Bay Area poker clubs. You'll find two variations of the game -- High and Low. In the High version, the player with the highest heart splits the pot with the player that holds the highest hand. In the Low version, the player with the lowest heart splits the pot with the player that holds the highest hands. In either version, a player must remain in the pot until the showdown to qualify for the heart winnings.
What Is “Gardena Jackpots”?
Gardena Jackpots is a variant of high-hand draw poker that was first played in poker clubs in the California city of Gardena (near Los Angeles). A hand of Gardena Jackpots begins with an ante bet, then are dealt five cards apiece. Players must qualify with a pair of Jacks or better. Players who don't meet this requirement must either fold, match the highest bet played, or increase their bet. If no one qualifies, a new set of cards is dealt (and more antes paid). The pot is bigger in this case, which explains the "jackpots" appellation.
Are Home Poker Games Illegal in California?
Home poker games are legal in California if no one profits from the game (except through betting). Thus, the organizer cannot charge an entry fee, a seat license, have a minimum food purchase rule, or otherwise find a way to charge participants. Basically, if you don't organize a business around home poker, then California allows real money betting on poker.