Best known for its card rooms and tribal casinos scattered around the state, California gaming offers residents of the state plenty of options when it comes to brick and mortar gaming establishments. The state isn't quite as forward in the online gaming industry however, offering residents very little on that front despite not having specific state laws against it.

California offers a wide variety of legal betting options including poker, card games, horse racing, and lotto. One notable omission in California's gaming laws is sports betting, which leaves sports bettors living in the state with limited options when they want to place bets on sporting events.

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Gaming Laws in California

In 1997, the state of California passed the Gambling Control Act to help better regulate gambling and card rooms around the state. This law brought about the California Gambling Control Commission (CGCC), a group that's stated mission is to “foster honest, competitive gambling in California that is free of criminal and corruptive elements.”

Per the California Constitution, card rooms in California are allowed to operate under the approval of the CGCC. Card rooms may offer card games such as blackjack, three-card poker and pai-gow in which each player has the opportunity to “bank” and act as the house, with this opportunity rotating throughout the game. These locations can also offer games such as bingo and poker in which players are playing against each other and not the house.

Tribal Casinos

Tribal casinos, which are also overseen by the CGCC, operate more like standard casinos. Players playing card games and games of chance are playing against the house instead of one another, and gambling devices such as slot machines are also legal and available for players to play.

As of 2015, there were roughly 90 card rooms and 60 tribal casinos open in the state of California.

Sports Betting in California

Sports betting is not legal at any physical location in California. No sports betting operators are authorized or permitted in the state, and any entity that takes action on sporting events in California is doing so illegally. The state itself offers no state-regulated sportsbooks online or offline for residents or visitors to place bets.

Online Sportsbooks

While some California residents choose to travel to neighboring Nevada to place their sports bets, many take advantage of online sportsbooks instead. While it is illegal for a sportsbook to be owned or operated in the state of California, there are no state laws that specifically prohibit residents from placing wagers on events at offshore locations.

No resident of California has ever been arrested or charged with an illegal activity for betting on sports online. Due to the state's lack of specific laws against online gambling and lack of legal action taken against residents, many offshore sportsbooks that accept business from the United States also accept business from California. Online gambling is viewed by many residents of the state as a safer option than finding a local, illegal bookie.

Poker and Casino in California

Physical poker rooms are legal in the state of California. There are around 100 active poker rooms in the state of California including the Bicycle Casino and Commerce Casino in Los Angeles. Many of the casinos both on and off Native American reservations around the state have a poker room that offers players the chance to play against one another.

Online Poker

Online poker is still illegal in the state of California. As is the case with sports betting online,  California has not taken legal action against any of its residents for playing poker online. But while there have been many efforts by various groups to try to legalize a state-sanctioned online poker room, none of these efforts have had any success to date.

Many offshore poker rooms that accept players from the United States are happy to accept players from California. Live poker is a popular option in the state however as a lot of the state's big cities have poker rooms available to the players and often run tournaments to entice players to play as well. Both cash games and tournaments are commonplace in most poker rooms in California, as is the case around the world.

Other Gaming Options in California

California parimutuel wagering is available in the form of horse racing, which is regulated by the California Horse Racing Board. Simulcast wagering is available at most horse racing sites, offering bettors both intrastate and interstate wagering options on other tracks in the state and around the country.

California Lottery

In 1984, state lottery was approved in the state of California. In addition to interstate options such as the Mega Millions and the Power Ball, California residents can also play intrastate lottery games and purchase scratcher cards as well. The California Lottery is very widely available in the state and can be found in many liquor stores and grocery stores.