Gambling – regardless of the type- is regulated in California at the state level. Some forms of gambling are still illegal under California state law. However, there are also numerous forms of gambling that are recognized by the state as legal activities. Examples of recognized and legal gambling activities include card clubs, Indian tribal casinos, pari-mutuel horse betting, the state lottery, and charitable gaming.
Gambling in general is a popular pastime in California. However, card clubs, and poker games in particular, are wildly popular within the state. In fact, California is home to some of the world’s largest poker rooms. The California State Poker Championship, an annual event considered to be a major tournament, is a testament to the popularity of poker within the state. These clubs are sometimes misleadingly referred to as “casinos”. However, these card clubs operate in a different fashion, as compared to the “Vegas” type casinos. Players do not bet against the “house”. Instead, they bet against each other, after first paying a fee so that they are permitted to play.
Indian casinos, legal since the late 1990s within the state of California, are modeled after “Vegas” style casinos. They are tribal casinos, which are situated on tribal Indian land. Games offered at these casinos include slot machines, poker, blackjack and bingo.
In the state of California, horse betting takes place as pari-mutuel betting. As opposed to horse race betting “against the house”, pari-mutuel betting essentially involves all players betting against each other. This type of betting is only permitted by California law in regards to horse racing.
Keeping Up with California State Laws
As is the case with almost every other state, gambling laws in California are an ever-changing landscape. As such, it can be difficult to keep up with all the various legalities. When in doubt, it is important to check the state laws, to see what is currently legal as opposed to that which is not allowed.
The legal age for gambling within the state of California is dependent to some extent upon what type of gambling a person is participating in, and where. The minimum legal age to enter a card room or a casino is 21. But, in the case of a few establishments, the legal age is only 18. Outside of card rooms and casinos, the minimum age for other forms of gambling within the state of California is 18.