Are Online Casinos Legal in California?

No. As a rule, there are no legal real-money online casinos in California. That’s the short answer, at least. However, there are quite a few other options to consider. From sweepstakes casinos to various methods of moving around the law without breaking it, there are definitely options for online gambling in California.

Below, we’ll take a good long look at the current situation of online gambling legislation in California. We’ll discuss possible options for gambling fans and potential upcoming changes. However, we won’t present any actual casino or how to find them. If that’s what you need, check out the Live Casinos US page, where you can find details on how to play live casino games online in the US.

Online Gambling in California – A Quick Rundown

First of all, let’s establish what kinds of gambling are and aren’t legal in California.

Gambling regulations in California are noticeably peculiar and full of contradictions. Generally speaking, classic casino gambling is illegal. There are some exceptions to this, however:

Card rooms in California can operate legally and offer classic casino table games such as blackjack and baccarat. However, the card room format essentially pits players against one another while charging a flat fee to play. Interestingly, it’s illegal for such establishments to have any sort of house edge. As usual, the games themselves have juice, which is why players typically take rooms acting as the “bank.”

Poker rooms are also quite popular in the state and are legal because poker is a player-run game. The poker rooms merely take a standard rake. Interestingly, legalizing online poker in California has been attempted several times, but it never really got anywhere.

To be clear, it’s not strictly illegal for players to gamble at casinos. The law is strictly geared towards the casinos themselves (or lack thereof.) This means that you’re not breaking laws by gambling online or otherwise. However, the issue is where to even gamble in the first place.

Potential Changes

It’s currently quite hard to gamble for real money in California, but there’s hope yet. Online gambling has been stagnant throughout the country for decades, but we’re finally seeing some movement – and in the right direction, no less.

First of all, the legal stance towards most gambling is becoming quite a bit more liberal these days. For instance, the Supreme Court paved the way for the spread of sports betting. More than 30 states have legalized sports betting since then, but California has not.

Why do sports betting matter for Californian online casinos? Well, the state has been described as the “Holy Grail of Gambling.” As the most populous state in the US, the Golden State is the place every gambling operator wants to be. If it moves one way or the other, the rest of the country is likely to follow suit.

Online casinos in the US are currently following the same trajectory as sports betting. A few changes in legislation led to the first handful of states allowing people to gamble. Currently, these include New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Michigan. Naturally, these were also among the first to adopt sports betting. It stands to reason that it’s quite popular that California online casinos can become legalized in a similar fashion.

What Are My Options?

If you’ve read this and are still asking how to gamble online for real money in California, we have good news and bad news.

First of all, your options are limited. However, limited does not mean non-existent. You simply have to change your approach.

Since Californian law primarily targets casinos and not users, offshore casinos are always an option. However, many of these are not completely outside the reach of US law, so they might be averse to accepting Californian customers.

The afore-mentioned social and sweepstakes casinos are another option. Playing for fun is great and all, but any real gambler will know that it severely dulls the excitement of playing casino games.

Lastly, we can also point to the recent emergence of cryptocurrency gambling. Cryptos like Bitcoin are still not seen as a true currency, which means there is no law explicitly banning them from being used for gambling. It would take a bit more effort to successfully bet crypto in California, but it’s perfectly viable.


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