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California Gambling Laws

Gambling, whether it's horse-racing or slot machines, is regulated at the state level. In California, some -- but not all -- types of gambling are illegal. More specifically, dealing, playing, or conducting the following games is illegal:

  • Faro;
  • Monte;
  • Roulette;
  • Lansquenet;
  • Rouge et noire;
  • Rondo;
  • Tan;
  • Fan-tan;
  • Seven-and-a-half;
  • Twenty-one;
  • Hokey-pokey; or
  • Banking or percentage games played with cards or dice.

California law generally recognizes the following forms of gaming: Indian casinos, cardclubs, pari-mutuel horse wagering, charitable gaming, and the state lottery.

  1. Indian Casinos - Casinos fashioned after Las Vegas casinos, or “Vegas-Style Casinos,” usually refer to casinos with banked games (poker, blackjack), bingo, and slot machines. These types of casinos are restricted to Tribal Casinos located on Indian Land.
  2. Cardclubs - Cardclubs, though many call themselves “casinos,” differ from Vegas-style casinos because they make money by charging players a fee to play. Essentially, at cardclubs players are betting against one another instead of against the “house.”
  3. Parimutuel Horse Wagering - Parimutuel betting, or “mutual betting,” refers to a form gambling in which players’ bets are pooled so that they are playing against one another instead of against the “house.” Once taxes and management fees are deducted, the pool is divided amongst the winners. In California, parimutuel betting is only allowed in the context of horse racing.
  4. Charitable Gambling - In California, legal charitable gambling refers to games of bingo in which the proceeds go to a charity. Oftentimes the games are hosted by the charities themselves. Note that bingo is the only game permitted.
  5. State Lottery - The state of California manages the California lottery and provides various games including Mega Millions and SuperLotto Plus.

The following table highlights some of the essential California laws related to gambling.

Code Section

Penal code 330 et seq.; Bus and Prof Code 19400 et seq., Gov't Code 98001 et seq.

Gambling

Dealing, playing, or conducting, games of faro, monte, roulette, lansquenet, rouge et noir, rondo, tan, fantan, seven-and-a-half, twenty-one, hokey pokey, or any banking or percentage game played with cards or dice.

Horse Racing/Off-Track Betting

Horse and harness racing permitted, pari-mutuel betting only. Off-track betting prohibited.

Dog Racing/Off-Track Betting

Not specified.

Casinos Allowed?

Indian reservation casinos allowed, otherwise prohibited. Slot machines banned (unless they are more than 25 years old and are not used for gambling)

Other Kinds of Gambling-Related Activities Allowed or Banned

"Razzle dazzle," card, dice games prohibited if played for money, credit, check, or anything of value. Draw poker banned only in counties of 4 million or more people. Illegal to possess any dice with more than 6 faces.

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a California criminal attorney or gaming attorney, or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

More Information

For more detailed information on gambling in California, you may want to take a look at the California State Library’s report on gambling. For a more general overview of gambling, check out FindLaw’s Details on State Gambling Laws article. If you find you are in need of legal representation for a gambling-related matter, you may want to consider retaining a California gaming lawyer.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified attorney.
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