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California Poker Laws: Everything You Need to Know

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The state of California has a long and storied history with poker. The game has been played in the state since the early days of Westward expansion and has always been popular with Californians. In this article, we’ll answer all of your questions about California poker laws.

We will give an introduction to the history of poker in California, as well as some pointers on staying within the confines of the law.

So whether you’re a beginner or an experienced player, read on to learn more about California’s poker laws!

California: Poker Laws

Where to play Online Poker in California

Looking to play poker in California? Check out our list of the best California poker sites!

BetOnline Poker

Bonus Offer: 100% up to $1000
Available Countries
Accepts US players
More Info
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  • Poker
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  • Roulette
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Features
  • Great gaming library
  • Numerous tournaments
  • Hefty welcome bonus
  • Additional bonuses for crypto users

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Is Online Gambling Illegal In California?

No, not at least when it comes to playing for real money on online poker. California Penal Code Section 330 prohibits the use of internet gambling in any form.

“Every player or bettor at or against any of those unlawful games is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be sentenced to a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), imprisonment in the county jail for no more than six months, or both the fine and imprisonment.

A sweepstake or social gaming site is the only legal way for Californians to play poker online. While these sites don’t provide the same excitement as playing for real money, they are still a lot of fun and provide an excellent opportunity to put your abilities to the test. We’ll never have to be concerned about breaking the law again!

California Poker and Gambling Laws

California

California is generally regarded as one of the most permissive states when it comes to gambling and gaming regulations. There are a wide variety of casinos, racetracks, and card rooms available throughout the state, and many forms of gambling are legal. However, there are also some limitations in place. 

For example, California does not allow for any form of online gambling. Additionally, the state has a minimum age requirement of 21 for all casino games, including poker. As a result, California poker players must be at least 21 years old to play at a casino or card club.

There are also some betting limits in place. For instance, Californians are only allowed to bet a maximum of $100 on any single horse race. Despite these restrictions, California remains one of the most gambling-friendly states in the United States.

Get A Closer Look At California Poker Laws

There are currently two separate bills before the California legislature that seek to regulate online poker in the state, Assembly Bill 2291 (6), and Senate Bill 678 (7). The bills are quite similar in most respects, with various Indian tribes lining up on both sides, with the goal to get everyone to agree on one of the versions when revised to the satisfaction needed to obtain a consensus.

The details that need to be still worked out are fairly minor though, although a big sticking point has been whether or not “bad actors” will be allowed to participate, where bad actors here is defined as companies who served the U.S. market after the UIGEA was passed, most notably Poker Stars.

Ironically, the UIGEA had nothing to do with the legality of online poker in California, but no one seems to care.

This and a few other things still need to be resolved, and progress is being made, although the progress has been fairly slow. It is likely just a matter of time though before these details get worked out and agreed on, we finally see regulated online poker in California.

In the meantime, players can play live poker at one of the many live poker rooms, or at one of the many Indian Casinos. Should players wish to play online, they are welcome at any of the online poker sites accepting players from the U.S. generally, while they wait for regulated poker to finally come to California.

In the meantime, the only poker site I recommend playing at if you’re from the great state of California is Ignition Poker, which purchased up the Bovada software and has since re-branded. They offer a $1,000 signup bonus for poker players and still offer the same great software and promotions that Bovada used to feature.

Short History of Gambling in California

a guy shuffles cards

Although there have been efforts to change this, legally speaking, real money internet poker has never been allowed in California.

In 2006, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was enacted. Under this federal law, financial transaction companies were not allowed to transfer money to or from online gambling websites. On April 15, 2011, the US Department of Justice made many online poker sites the targets of civil complaints and sealed indictments, including allegations of UIGEA violations. The majority of online poker sites avoided California after that Black Friday.

Beginning in 2008, lawmakers in both the state Assembly and Senate began drafting and eventually introducing bills to legalize intrastate online poker games in California. Many plans with the state’s gaming tribes, card rooms, racetracks, and other entities that were proposed as potential online poker licensees were described in the bills.

Some of the large poker sites got involved and began pushing for the bill’s passage in California. In response, several bills included “bad actor” clauses, effectively preventing these poker sites from servicing California players for years or permanently as a result of the site’s service during the post-UIGEA, pre-Black Friday period (2006-2011).

Online poker, on the other hand, appears to be out of the picture for now. It appears that online poker will not be revisited until California decides whether or not to legalize sports betting. However, we’ll keep an eye on any new developments and let you know if and when online poker is again given a seat at the legislative table.

The Future of Gambling in California

The future of gambling in California is uncertain. Currently, there are 86 casinos operating in the state, generating $7 billion in revenue each year. However, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act limits the number of casinos that can be operated on Native American land.

As a result, many tribes are struggling to keep up with the demand for gambling facilities. In addition, the act prevents tribes from expanding their operations beyond their current reservations.

The number of casinos in California is unlikely to increase in the future. However, the state has several options for expanding gambling operations. For example, California could allow tribes to build casinos off of their reservations.

Alternatively, the state could create a new class of gambling licenses that would allow operators to build additional casinos. Either way, the future of gambling in California is far from settled.

Final Thoughts

As we wrap up our thoughts on California laws, there are a couple of key things to keep in mind. First and foremost, it is important to remember that although poker is legal in California, some regulations are still in place.

For example, players must be 21 years of age or older to participate. Additionally, winnings are subject to state taxes. Finally, it is also worth noting that while online poker is not currently regulated in California, this could change in the future.

As such, it is important to stay up-to-date on the latest developments. Despite these restrictions, however, California remains one of the best states in which to play poker. Thanks for reading!

FAQ

When Was the Last Time California Attempted to Legalize Online Poker? The last time California attempted to legalize online poker was in 2017. While a few bills have been introduced since then, lawmakers have been more focused on sports betting than online poker. However, that doesn’t mean the effort to legalize internet gaming has died down; there is still a lot of support for online poker in the state. While it may take some time to get all the pieces in place, it’s clear that there is still a strong desire to see online poker become a reality in California.
Where Can I Play Legal Online Poker? If you’re looking to play some online poker and are a California resident, your best bet is to head on to Nevada. To play on a Nevada online poker site, you don’t need to be a resident of the state, but you do need to be physically present there. However, there are also legal online poker rooms in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Delaware if you find yourself outside of Nevada. Whether you’re on vacation and want to play a quick game, or if you’d like to establish a more long-lasting poker night with your pals, there are several alternatives.
Why is Online Poker Better Than Live Poker? There are many reasons to love playing poker online. For one, you can play from the comfort of your own home – no need to dress up and travel to a casino. You also have a wider range of games and stakes to choose from and can play at any time of day or night. But perhaps the biggest advantage of online poker is that you can play against other players worldwide, giving you a truly global poker experience.

About the Author

Sadonna Price
Author Sadonna is a mom of two and an avid poker player who also enjoys online casino games. She has been part of the online gambling industry for over a decade, working as a news and blog writer. Sadonna still plays Texas hold’em in her free time while her daily job revolves around providing insights into the online gambling world using her creativity and writing skills.
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