Your destination for online casino and physical casinos in the state of California. We’re covering all the news you need to see in order to stay current on the laws, regulations, partnerships, offers and more.
The California gaming industry has been around since 1933 when horse racing became legal in the State. Early years were very unregulated until the 1980s when the state lottery system passed, along with laws to help regulate card rooms within the State. Later on, tribal casinos came along and exploded during the turn of the century as more regulations helped paved the California casino landscape. Since then, California gaming turned into a multi-billion industry with lots of legalities and battles mainly between card rooms and tribal casinos. Sports betting is still is not legal but could change over the next few years. Here is a look at the California casino guide.
Outside of horse racing in 1933, gambling did not explode in the State until 1978 when the United States Supreme Court ruled in the case California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians that tribes could operate casinos outside state jurisdiction if the State had not directly prohibited gambling. This opened the door for California tribes to begin opening casinos on their land.
After 1978, California gaming was still unregulated. In 1984, the State enacted the Gaming Registration Act, which required the Attorney General’s office to provide uniform, minimum regulation of California card rooms. However, the scope of the Attorney General’s power was limited, and funding was weak. In 1997, the State realized they need broader regulation over California’s gambling industry. They enacted the Gambling Control Act, which oversaw gambling regulations in the State. Cardrooms also saw more regulation, which had very little before these laws.
Casino gambling regulations did not stop there. In March 2000, California voters passed Proposition 1A, which amended the California Constitution to permit Class III casino-style gaming on Indian land. While the Tribe maintains the primary responsibility for on-site regulation of gaming operations, the State is ultimately responsible for ensuring compliance with all aspects of the compact. The casino-style gaming allowed for tribal casinos to expand exponentially into what they are today.
In 2004, Gov. Schwarzenegger extended the compacts of nine tribes by 10 years and permitted them an unlimited number of slot machines in exchange for increased licensing fees for slot machines above the original 2,000 machine limit. Over the next four years, tribal casinos begin to explode all over the State of California. Gov. Schwarzenegger continues to add slot machines to Indian casinos across the State as they grow during this time.
Tribal casinos continued to grow in the California gaming industry. In September 2012, Gov. Jerry Brown approved the first California tribes to operate casinos not located on their tribal lands. This is another milestone as tribal casinos continue to create a stronghold on California gaming.
Cardrooms were first to appear in California, which usually happens in states where full-fledged casinos were outlawed at one point. California gambling cannot have their full story told without understanding cardrooms and the meaning they have to California and the casino industry.
Today, California has 66 operating cardrooms within the State. Cardrooms in California are different from casinos because they over player vs. player games. Those games include poker, Texas Hold ‘Em, Seven Card Stud, Pai Gow, etc. However, California cardrooms have been known to try and bend the rules of the games they offer. Sometimes, cardrooms offer games like no bust blackjack, which blackjack is technically illegal to provide in California card rooms. However, the game is technically player vs. player, so it is allowed.
Also, the industry generated $850 million in revenue after payouts in 2018. This is not the biggest part of the gambling industry, but still very popular in California. In 1997, The Gambling Control Act was adopted, which created the California Gambling Control Commission to regulate California cardrooms.
What changed between the cardrooms and casinos was in March 2000 when California voters passed Proposition 1A into law. This allowed tribal casinos to take off in expansion, allowing them full-fledged casino-style gaming. Also, casinos were allowed to use up to 250 slot machines in each casino, which is where the growth started.
Proposition 1A was the begging of the booming tribal casino industry in California. From there, former Governor’s Arnold Schwarzenneger and Jerry Brown continued to legalize sports betting legislation in favor of tribal casinos. Casino-style gaming is how what turned the tribal casinos into what they are today. With regulations, they favor them over cardrooms makes them more successful in the California gaming industry than cardrooms.
With allowing more slot machines, and tribes to build casinos off reservations, the tribal casino was able to grow into 66 operating casinos amongst 61 tribes. Also, tribal casinos generate $8 billion in annual revenue, which is roughly 25 percent of all Indian gaming across the U.S.
Cardrooms and Tribal Casinos Feud
Cardrooms and tribal casinos have been going back and forth in the State of California since 2000. Proposition 1A was where tribal casinos took off within the State and left cardrooms behind. Since then, tribal casinos make about 10x the amount cardrooms make in terms of revenue, and the rooms are continually trying to find clever ways to bring in customers.
The main difference between cardrooms and tribal casinos is that cardrooms offer player vs. player games. Casinos offer house vs. player games. This keeps both sides in the industry without hurting one another. However, tribal casinos get much more leeway with games they can allow compared to the cardrooms.
Also, tribal casinos are constantly monitoring cardrooms on the types of games they offer. Casinos have filed numerous lawsuits against cardrooms to break the rules, and cardrooms continue to find ways to walk a very fine line for game offerings.
Cardrooms usually offer games like Texas Hold ‘Em and Pai Gow, which are player vs. player games. A major lawsuit in California happened between the two rivals when cardrooms were offering no-bust blackjack as part of their games. No-bust blackjack is similar to blackjack (house vs. player game), except no-bust is played amongst players instead of a dealer. The only reason the dealer is involved is that they collect a small fee from each round.
The lawsuit lasted until 2018, which was resolved in favor of the cardrooms. Usually, when cardrooms and tribal casinos go to court, cardrooms find themselves being in support of the ruling. This could be because tribes are viewed as picking on the little guy when they are an $8 billion industry. Regardless, card rooms and tribal casinos will continue to battle in the State of California as both try to churn out as much revenue as possible.
Number of Casinos
There are 66 tribal casinos in the State of California operating in 29 different counties. San Diego has the most tribal casinos within their county at 11. San Diego County hosts three of the 10 largest casinos in California. The largest one in S.D..D. County is Viejas Casino. The casino has 3,000 slot machines, 82 game tables, 18 poker tables, and is 210,000 square feet. Also, the Viejas casino has seven dining venues and three entertainment venues. Before Viejas was a casino, they originally started as a bingo room in an R.V..V. park during the 70s. Their business grew and ultimately moved into the casino they were in now in 1991.
Pala Casino Resort and Spa is the second largest casino in San Diego County. They have 2,200 slot machines, 87 tables games, 13 poker tables, and has a floor size of 650,000 square feet. Also, Pala casino has 12 restaurants 2,000-seat event center, and a 425-room hotel. Pala first opened in March of 2000.
Barona Valley Ranch Resort and Casino round out the top three in San Diego county. The casino has 2,000 slot machines, 80 table games, 15 poker rooms, and a floor size of 310,000 square feet. Also, Barona Valley has 12 dining venues, a 400-room hotel, and golf. Barona Valley opened their doors on New Year’s Eve of 2002, and have a gambling age of 18.
Others in San Diego County include Casino Pauma, Golden Acorn Casino, Harrah’s Resort Southern California, Jamul Casino, La Jolla Slot Arcade, Santa Ysabel Resort and Casino, Sycuan Resort and Casino, and Valley View Casino.
Riverside County has nine casinos making them the second-largest county in terms of tribal locations. Riverside County is home to the largest casino in California, which Pechanga Resort and Casino. Pechanga Resort has 4,500 slot machines, 154 table games, 54 poker tables, and a floor size of 188,000 square feet. Plus, they have 20 dining venues and bars, a 1200-seat showroom, and a 1090-room hotel. The casino opened its doors in 2002 and is larger than the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, comparing square footage.
Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa is also on the top-10 largest list and second-largest in Riverside County. The casino has 2,700 slot machines, 60 table games, 13 poker tables, and the floor is 150,000 square feet. Also, the Morongo Casino has eight dining venues, a 310-room hotel, and a spa.
The other seven casinos in Riverside county include Agua Caliente Casino, Augustine Casino, Cahuilla Creek Casino, Fantasy Springs Resort and Casino, Soboba Casino, Spa Resort and Casino, and Spotlight 29 Casino.
Humboldt and Mendocino both have four casinos in their county, which ties for the third-most tribal casinos within them. The four in Humboldt County are Bear River Casino, Blue Lake Casino, Cher-Ae Heights Bingo, and Casino, Lucky Bear Casino. Mendocino County has Black Bart Casino, Red Fox Casino, Shodokai Casino, and Sho-Ka-Wah Casino in their jurisdiction.
In terms of the largest casinos in California, the other five are scattered throughout the State. Cache Creek Casino and Resort is located in Yolo County, and they have 2,400 slot machines, 122 tables games, and a floor size of 74,720 square feet. Where they make up in size is their nine dining venues, 200-room hotel, and Yocha Dehe Golf Club.
San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino is located in San Bernadino County. The casino has 4,700 slot machines, 130 tables games, 200 video poker games, and 120,000 square feet of floor space. Also, San Manuel has nine dining venues and a 65,00-seat amphitheater.
Thunder Valley Casino Resort also made the top-10 list. They are located in Placer County and have 2,800 slot machines, 105 gaming tables, 200 video poker machines, and a floor size of 144,00 square feet. Plus, Thunder Valley has nine dining venues, three entertainment venues, and a 297-room hotel.
Redhawk Casino is located in El Dorado County. They have 2,100 slot machines, 75 table games, seven poker tables, five dining venues, and a floor size of 88,000 square feet.
Table Mountain Casino, located in Fresno County, will round out the top-10. Thunder Mountain has 2,000 slot machines, 40 tables games, 10 poker tables, three dining venues, 700-seat bingo hall, event center, and golf and country club. They also have a floor size of 250,000 square feet.
California offers several options for gambling at casinos and for playing online, whether it’s betting on sports, slots or poker. Between the various card rooms and tribal casinos, racetracks, and the lottery, California offers one of the richest arrays of regulated gambling choices of any state.
Legal online gambling options are currently limited in California. The primary option for online gambling in California is sweepstakes online casinos and poker sites. This allows California residents the ability to enjoy casino games and poker sites for real cash prizes.
However, California is still limited in the online casino games they offer. The prospects for regulated online poker is very unlikely with years of failed back and forth between stakeholders and no momentum in the California Legislature. Although land-based poker in California is incredibly popular, it’s currently unable to have an online poker bill introduced in the past two years. This is after years of introduction and failures as it’s become somewhat of a lost cause. For now, California online gamblers will have to make do with sweepstakes casinos like Chumba Casino.
Some of the better places to play online slots and casino games are through Slots.lv and El Royale Casinos. Slots.lv is an offshore site where Californians can enjoy playing online games.
El Royale is another online gambling platform with great design. They are also easy to use and can use debit and credit cards for transactions with no hidden fees. They offer multiple table games and video poker selections for their customers.
Overall, there are a few online casinos to choose from, but the selection is still somewhat limited. Daily Fantasy Sports is another option but is not offered from online casinos. Online California casinos give out real cash prizes to their customers. California’s online gambling is regulated differently from their physical locations.
Online gambling in California is a grey area, which is why the options can be hit or miss in terms of U.S. operators. However, Californians can always go to offshore sites to gamble, which is legal in the U.S. Similar to sports betting, California may never be able to find the right regulations for online gambling. It sort of became Pandora’s Box, and it doesn’t seem like they’ll be able to close it.
California Casino FAQ
Can I gamble in California
Yes, California allows gambling between tribal casinos, card rooms, the California lottery, and horse racing. Each shareholder offers different styles of games to bet on at each location. Gambling regulations in 1984 changed the California gaming landscape, making it a more player-friendly way to bet.
What is the difference between cardrooms and tribal casinos
Cardrooms and tribal casinos offer different kinds of games, and each one can only provide games state laws allow them too. Cardrooms offer more player vs. player games, and tribal casinos offer house vs. player games. The two entities have been separated since March of 2000.
What can I gamble on at tribal casinos
Gamblers at tribal casinos can play games like slots, blackjack, and craps. Tribal casino gaming was expanded after 2000 law changes in favor of their casinos. Since then, tribal casinos in California turned into an $8 billion industry.
What can I gamble on at cardrooms
Cardroom games are different than tribal, and they offer player vs. player games like Texas Hold ‘Em. However, many cardrooms are always trying to walk to the regulation line by offering games similar to the house vs. player games. Tribal casinos are continually fighting with what game cardrooms offer because they believe cardrooms violate laws often.
Is online gambling legal?
Yes, California offers online gambling in various forms, from casino games to lottery games. Also, people can bet horses online, along with playing online poker, blackjack, and more. Online casino games are still limited due to legislation. This could take years before California has a variety of online games to choose from.
Is sports betting legal?
No, sports betting is not legal in California. Battles between cardrooms and tribal casinos have prevented sports betting to become legal in recent years. Right now, it is likely that sports betting will be on the 2022 ballot and will be legal as early as 2023.
Is horse racing available in California?
Yes, horse racing is legal. Players can gamble at race tracks throughout the State of California. In 2018, horse racing saw $3.2 billion wagered on events. Also, horse racing has been in California since 1993.
Will Commercial Casinos Open in California
The answer is most likely no. Indian casinos have an incredible stronghold on the California gaming history, and will most likely keep lawmakers from forming regulations around commercial casinos within the State. Plus, tribal casinos bring in $8 billion in annual revenue, and there is no point in fixing something that is not broken.