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Is Online Gambling Legal in California?

Author:

Mike F

Updated:

12-08-22

Huge casino fan who loves the occasional sports wager. You can usually find me at the blackjack table or playing slots.

As things stand, most forms of online gambling, including online casinos, online sports betting, and online poker, remain illegal in California. However, there are a few options in the Golden State for players to enjoy, such as daily fantasy sports and advance deposit horse race betting.

Of course, you’ll find numerous offshore casino gambling sites that accept players from California, but these casinos are not legal on US shores. Some are operating without any type of recognized license, while others claim legality through weak licensing authorities in places such as Panama and Costa Rica.

The bottom line is that these online gambling sites are often untrustworthy. There are strong suspicions that their games are rigged, and multiple players have had issues with payouts.

Naturally, this is frustrating for enthusiastic customers who are looking to play online slots and other games at California casinos. Yet, rather than run the risk with these rogue operators, there are a few credible alternatives on the table.

  • Social casinos If you simply want to have fun with friends and compare each other’s casino gaming stats, then social casinos tick the right boxes. These sites are totally free to play, but the drawback is that you can’t win real money.
  • Sweepstakes casinos A sweeps casino is essentially a social casino and a real money casino rolled into one. To comply with US sweepstakes laws, these sites offer free-to-play casino games, like slots, pai gow poker, and keno. However, they also make it possible to acquire sweeps coins through other purchases, which are used to play games that offer real cash prizes.
  • Sweepstakes poker – Effectively, these sites use the same model as sweepstakes casinos in that you can play for free or collect sweeps coins to enter games with real prizes. While waiting for California to legalize online poker rooms, sweepstakes poker sites like Global Poker is a solid alternative.
  • Social sports betting – Free sports betting is available in California through sites like BetRivers.net. Bettors use virtual credits to place their wagers. It’s a good way to practice and test various markets and strategies.

We’ll delve into the legal online gambling options in California in this guide and examine the possible timeline regarding licensing and regulation within the state. So, let’s get started.

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Although licensed and regulated online gambling sites like BetMGM, Caesars, and DraftKings are not yet legal, sweeps casinos are. Furthermore, some of these sites offer huge bonuses, progressive jackpots, and identical games to those found at the leading real money casinos.

We recommend reading our in-depth guide on sweepstakes casinos to learn exactly how they work while checking out our top picks in the table above.

Are Online Casinos Legal in California?

Running the risk of sounding like a broken record, we’ll mention again that real money online casino gambling is illegal in California. This may surprise some because the Golden State offers multiple native American casinos on tribal lands.

In fact, previously, the native communities tried to push for the legalization of online gambling sites within their boundaries, but this was rejected by the state courts. As things stand, nothing is in the pipeline for the current status of online casinos to change any time soon.

That brings us back to the viable alternatives of social gaming sites and sweepstakes casinos, such as:

  • PulszWith 300+ slots and table games from leading software developers, including NetEnt and Pragmatic Play, Pulsz is one of the hottest sweepstakes around. Essentially, players can gamble with real money by using sweepstakes coins that can be cashed out for real dollars.
  • Chumba Casino – Chumba is a social and sweepstakes casino with more than 100 high-quality table games and slots. A striking feature of this site is that it has sweeps coins progressive jackpots linked across several Chumba slot games that pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • Fortune Coins This is a new sweeps casino that’s making a big impression. It offers video poker, keno, slots, and stunning progressive jackpots with real money payouts to deliver a unique Las Vegas experience.

California Sweepstakes Casinos

In addition to these, live dealer casino games are now available for free at BetRivers’ social casino. You can also find sites with gamification missions that players must complete, which enhances the user experience across the platform. A few other apps worth checking out are:

Just to emphasize that, for all intents and purposes, these sites and mobile apps provide the option for legal online gambling in California by using the sweepstakes model. Therefore, players don’t need to entertain dodgy offshore casinos anymore.

California Sports Betting

Land-Based Casinos in California

Players don’t have far to look for brick and mortar casinos in CA. The state is home to 76 tribal-owned casinos and dozens of card rooms that are licensed by the California Gambling Control Commission. A few of the top locations are:

  • Harrah’s Resort Casino
  • Agua Caliente Resort Casino
  • Win-River Resort Casino
  • Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino
  • San Manuel Casino
  • 500 Club

Some of these venues boast more than 2,000 games, and the card rooms offer no-limit Texas Hold’em and Omaha tables, among others. Collectively, these are the perfect supplement for California bettors who are waiting for the state’s lawmakers to perhaps one day legalize online gambling.

California Casinos

Is Online Sports Betting Legal in California?

We know that California online gambling laws deem sports betting illegal; however, the same applies to retail sports betting. The good news is that there is a wind of change in the air with two voter initiatives – Prop 26 (in-person sports betting) and Prop 27 (mobile / online sports betting) – going to the vote with the aim of legalizing sports betting in California.

Prop 26: The Tribal Sports Betting Initiative

With the majority of the Golden State’s gaming tribes in favor of Prop 26, there is strong support for this retail sports betting proposal. However, through Prop 26, online sports betting would remain illegal.

Prop 27: Mobile Sports Betting in California Initiative

Countering Prop 26, several private gambling companies, including BetMGM, FanDuel, and DraftKings, have proposed their own California sports betting initiative – Prop 27. This would allow mobile/online sports wagering so that patrons could bet via apps and websites.

With both sides opposing each other’s initiatives, things are at a bit of a stalemate right now. However, California has the potential to be one of the largest markets in the US. Therefore, it’s in everyone’s interests to reach a compromise so that they can move forward collectively.

While waiting for the outcome of these initiatives to legalize sports betting in California, there are a couple of free-to-play alternatives:

  • BetRivers.net
  • Rush Games

These are essentially the same site, with them both operating on the Rush Street Interactive platform. Although you can make purchases to buy virtual credits, you cannot win real money. The intention is to experience sports betting and have fun.

California Live Dealers

Legal Online Casino Games in California

The ethos of Gamble USA is to promote safe and legal online gambling sites to avid players in CA. This is why we are advocates of sweeps casinos because they are lawful – giving players protections that they don’t get from offshore casino sites.

Furthermore, the quality of casino games from the top social casinos is better because they are partnered with the best i-gaming software developers. These are some of the games that you have access to:

Through legal loopholes in the US sweepstakes laws, it is possible to play the majority of these games for real money using sweeps coins (or gold coins). For operators to be compliant, they must offer free play variants, and they also have to allow players the ability to collect sweeps coins without making a deposit. Dress it up how you like, but these are essentially real money online casino games that are legal in CA.

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Online Gambling Banking in California

Although the range of banking methods is not as extensive for social casinos compared to real money gambling sites, Californian players still have a healthy range of options to choose from.

The exact payment services will depend on the site; however, to provide some insight, these are banking options available at BetRivers.net:

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With no legal California online gambling sites, as in regulated casinos and sportsbooks, there isn’t much to say on this front. Of course, there are promotional offers from daily fantasy sports apps and horse racing websites.

Also, social casinos and sweepstakes poker sites run multiple promotions. These add more value to your gaming experience and make your bankroll go further. When using our links and promo codes you could receive a welcome bonus, sign up casino bonuses, loyalty offers, referral bonuses, reload bonuses, free spins, and more.

When Will Online Gambling Become Legal in California?

When it comes to online casinos and online poker rooms, there is nothing on the horizon that suggests the current status quo is going to change any time soon. As stressed above, the operators of tribal casinos in California and private gambling companies are at loggerheads, which isn’t helping the online industry move forward.

As for legal sports betting, Prop 26 and Prop 27 go to the ballot in November 2022, but with tribal associations and private operators fighting against each other, no one knows what the outcome is going to be until the time approaches. In the meantime, sports gambling enthusiasts typically hop across the border to use the legal online sportsbooks in Nevada and Arizona.

Stay Safe While Gambling Online in California!

Whichever form of online gambling you partake in, whether it’s now or in the future, you must ensure that you stay safe when playing. Of course, it’s a part of gambling to lose money here and there, but it’s one thing to get a bad beat when you play online poker compared to your account being compromised in some way and your bankroll being stolen from you.

Many people ask, ‘is online gambling in California safe?‘ The answer is ‘yes‘ if you follow good practices like the tips we’ve shared below.

Only Use Sites with Respected Licenses

It’s stating the obvious, but our number one tip is to only use online gambling sites and mobile apps that have a good reputation with licenses from respected authorities. This is where offshore gambling companies that target CA players fall way short. While most are licensed, the governing bodies that issue them aren’t top drawer, which leaves players open to possibly being exploited in a number of ways.

If and when in the future we see California legalize sports betting and online casino gambling online, the sites will be licensed and regulated by the California Gambling Control Commission. This is the benchmark of a safe gambling company.

Licensed Software and Games

Trust and honesty are vital when playing online casino games. As players, the bare minimum you expect is fairness. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Illegal US casinos have a notorious reputation for using unlicensed software and operating rigged games.

Akin to the operators, i-gaming software companies should also be licensed – and all of the top providers in the industry are. Developers like NetEnt and Pragmatic Play, which supply games to both real money and social casinos, hold numerous licenses. Their games are audited regularly, so players know that each slot spin is truly random, each hand in blackjack is legit, and so on.

Trusted Payment Methods

When gambling online, only ever use reliable and trusted payment options. It has been known for some offshore sites to use middlemen with personal bank accounts. For instance, a player makes a bank transfer to the ‘middleman’, and once the cash is received, it’s credited to the player’s casino account. This type of indirect payment means something is not right.

Whether it’s PayPal, Visa or Play+, stick to payment options you know are legit. Furthermore, only make direct payments to the gambling site you are using.

Keep All Your Details Safe

It goes without saying that you need to keep your account details safe and don’t share them with anyone else. Also, if you use a shared computer, be sure to always log out at the end of your session and don’t save your info so that it auto-fills your password on future visits.

Something which many people do is email their password to themselves so they don’t forget it. This is not recommended because if something manages to get into your email, they have all the information they need to get into your casino account and drain your balance.

Be Careful with Public Wifi

Using public wifi services can be risky if your device isn’t fully secure. These networks can be used by hackers to compromise different accounts you have. If you intend to use wifi, the system should be password-protected at the very least.

Check the Privacy Policy

Another part of staying safe online comes from checking the gambling site’s privacy policy. Regulated operators will not sell (or pass on) a player’s personal information, such as their email address, phone number, and playing habits.

Rarely do you get such guarantees from unlicensed sites, which can lead to you being bombarded by other rogue operators that have somehow acquired all of your contact information.