Best California Online Casino Apps and Sites
California is viewed by most to be a very progressive state. They legalized medical marijuana well before anyone in the world (aside from Amsterdam) had even begun to consider the notion. But gambling is always a different kettle of fish, and California's attitude towards it is somewhat chillier.
This review goes back to the beginning, where we decipher California's gambling roots and explore how they formed the situation today. We're also taking a look at where things are headed, changes that are on the horizon, and what keen gamblers can expect from the Golden State over the next few years. Sit tight - it's gonna be a good one!
Top 10 sites to gamble online in California
- TVG Racing
- Global Poker
- Chumba Casino
- Pulsz Casino
- Global Poker
- Gambino Slots
Online Gambling at California Casinos
The first thing you should know is that there's no such thing as California-born online casinos. If you want to get the casino experience, then you'll need to turn to land-based casinos, all of which are exclusively operated by Indian tribes within the state. And this is big business, with about 62 land-based casinos spread across the state.
They're all totally above board, licensed through compacts negotiated between the state and the tribes. The tribes that run particularly large casinos also share their revenue with tribes with smaller casinos. When it comes to online forms of gambling, your only legal avenue is to place online bets on horse races. If the notion of wagering on ponies doesn't excite you, then you might be in luck with sports betting.
This isn't currently legal, but a vote taking place in November 2022 will decide if online sports betting will be added to the rather short list of online gambling options.
California Online Gambling Laws
Californian gambling law is more or less black and white when it comes to what's legal and what isn't. At the time of writing, you must be 21 or older to gable, and the following are the only legal ways to gamble if you find yourself a resident of the state:
- Indian Casinos
- Card clubs (where you wager against the player and not the house)
- Pari Mutuel Wagering (on horse races)
- Charitable Gaming
- California state lottery
Commercial casino-style gaming is strictly prohibited, except on Indian reservations. This might sound like some kind of bizarre loophole, but the tribes are subject to laws separate to those of the rest of the state.
Gambling has long since been the chosen entrepreneurial route for Indian tribes, and they fight to retain the industry for themselves. As California moves towards legalizing sports betting, the tribes are heavily objecting, fearing that opening this avenue will leave the door open for online casinos. Currently, players are forced to visit land-based casinos if they want to while away some time on slots and table games.
Gambling History in California
As with most states in the US, gambling forms a part of the social fabric. It usually began with colonial settlers and the resultant mingling with native tribes. In the case of California, gambling was first officially recorded in 1872 with the enactment of the California Penal Code. This code specifically prohibited casino games, and any games which are house-banked (which is pretty much every traditional casino game you can think of). What did escape the ban was poker - probably because the house doesn't control the bankroll.
But people crave more than just poker, and in the 1930s a local mobster called Anthony Corner figured out a loophole. He began to moor casino boats off the coast of Santa Monica in international waters.
These floating casinos contained restaurants, and orchestras - ensuring patrons had a well-rounded night on the ocean. But in 1948, President Harry Truman made these ships illegal and the fun was over. The only exception to the rule was an Indian tribe-organized casino entertainment, which has been legally certified to be a law unto itself by the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
Land-Based Casinos in California
California has well over 60 Indian casinos, not to mention 86 cardrooms spread across the entire state. There's a big distinction between casinos and card rooms in the Golden State. Casinos, in the strictest sense, are only legal on tribal reservations.
On the other hand, card rooms aren't restricted to Indian tribal zones. They can be operated anywhere in California because in these establishments the house doesn't act like a bank - the players do. Here you can play games like blackjack, three-card poker, baccarat, and pai gow. In order to keep card rooms legal, it's critical that the players always vie against each other and never against the house.
These rules have been in place since 1984. The card room sector was further regulated in 1997 with the Gambling Control Act. All in all, California is quite the haven for land-based casino lovers and card players alike - things only get tricky if you want to play online!
When Will California Become Online Gambling Legal?
We like to think of online gambling in two streams: online casinos and online sports betting. The debate surrounding if or when California will welcome online gambling is a hot topic right now, but mainly with regard to legalizing online sportsbooks. It’s set to be one of the main voting points in November 2022, with many feeling fairly certain that it will be a landslide victory for those who want to introduce sportsbetting into the state.
But it’s definitely a controversial move, and not without its challenges. There are two sides to the debate:
- Prop 26 is the conservative option, only allowing in-person-only sports betting at tribal casinos and four horse racing tracks
- Prop 27 is a push for the future, gunning to legalize online and mobile sports betting for Californians over 21, offered by tribes and businesses they contract with
It will be interesting to see how the vote turns out, especially since Prop 27 is backed by industry heavyweights like DraftKings.
Expected Online Casino Games in California
There's no hint of online casinos making a debut in California any time soon. In fact, discussions about allowing online casino sites aren't even on the agenda. Even if sportsbooks make it past the vote and start to legally target Californians, it will be purely sporting with no hint of that classic casino magic.
Should the law, by some fantastical change of heart, make a shift towards online casinos, there's no real way to tell which direction it could go. They could opt for a relaxed license where any and all casino games are allowed, or it could be highly restrictive, limiting the games, providers, and also which site operators can access the license.
There's really no way to tell what the future holds for online casinos in California, but you can bet we'll be watching that space very eagerly.
When it comes to online slots, you're likely to run into a wall of disappointment as a California resident. The short story is that it's completely illegal to play online slots for real money. Your only real option will be to head off to a social casino or sweepstakes site.
You won't be able to play for real money, but you'll still get that competitive edge thanks to a series of loyalty schemes, promotions, giveaways, and tournaments. If you really must experience the thrill of real money wins, then you'll need to look up your nearest land-based casino and call yourself an uber.
For a state that embraces poker in both card rooms and casinos so wholeheartedly, California draws a hard line at online poker. There's absolutely no way to play real money poker online and stay legal - sorry guys.
But all hope is not lost. If you don't want to play in person at a physical site, then you can always turn to a social poker site. Global Poker is one such site leading the fray right now (but there are plenty of others to choose from), allowing players to strategize and go head to head to improve their game.
We always think of the lottery as the most basic of gambling opportunities. It's a fun little game that your grandma makes you pick out numbers for every week. Californians share this love of the lottery and the California Lottery was instated all the way back in 1985. The state also participates in multi-state jackpots like Powerball and Mega Millions.
While the lottery has an app that you can use to scan tickets to find out if you're a winner, you can't use it to purchase any. All lottery tickets need to be purchased in person from participating stores.
There are a few casino games that are completely prohibited in California, even in Indian casinos. Unfortunately, roulette makes that list, and there's no way around it. And because online roulette also makes the naughty list, Californian roulette fans are almost out of luck.
You'll have to trawl through a few social casinos and look out for sites that offer play-for-fun roulette. While it won't have the same punch as the real thing, it probably won't be far behind.
Wanna play some online blackjack in California? Forget about it. Well, not really, but you can't play online for real money. The state is pretty firm on that matter. Your remaining three options are land- based Indian casinos, card rooms or a visit to a social casino that hosts blackjack games.
It doesn't look like California is about to change its stance anytime soon, so it's probably a good time to start your social casino adventure. Check out our casino top list above for some suggestions.
Live dealer games, also called live casino games, are a beautiful hybrid of land-based casinos and online gameplay. They're the exclusive territory of online casinos, which only means one thing for Californians - live dealer games are illegal.
Of course, with so many land-based casinos dotted about the state, it's very easy to pick one and experience the real thing. For those unwilling to take to the streets, your only option is to wait for California to welcome online casinos into their legislation. Just don't hope too hard. Right now, it's just online sports betting that's on the agenda.
When Could California Legalize Sports Gambling?
As things currently stand, it's completely illegal to bet on sports within the state of California. However, an upcoming vote will decide on the introduction of sports betting - either online or in-person. Our perspective is that in 2022, the time for land-based wagering with regard to sports is past its heyday.
People want the convenience of betting on the go, and regulators recognize that. Should the vote pass in favor of sports gambling, Californians could be gaining access to top sites as soon as 2023 - or they might have to travel to tribal casinos.
Daily Fantasy Sports Betting in California
Many states in the US have gone out of their way to sign an agreement explicitly allowing daily fantasy sports (DFS). Unfortunately, California isn't one of those states. However, while the law has been silent on the matter, there haven't been any moves to prosecute players in any way.
In fact, DFS seems to be tacitly allowed in California, and top sites like DraftKings and FanDuel take on players from the Golden State. In light of the upcoming legislation on sports betting, it's very possible that DFS might find its way on the agenda soon after, but we'll just have to wait and see.
Horse Betting in California
Strangely enough, while all forms of sports betting are currently illegal in California, horse betting managed to slip through the net. In fact, Prop 3 of 1933 established the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) to firmly lay down the conditions within which horse race wagering can take place.
Initially, only in-person wagering was allowed, but later the law was amended to allow bets to be placed online too. This flexibility resulted in many horse betting operators competing within the state. The following are probably the most popular:
- TVG Racing
- NYRA Bets
Expected Online Sportsbooks to Launch in California
Things are really hitting up in the California sportsbook department, with a vote in November 2022 taking place that will finally legalize sports betting in the state for the first time in history.
The big unknown is whether the vote will swing in favor of in-person betting or online betting. As you might imagine, many big online sportsbooks are lobbying in their favor, but the majority of Indian tribes are also lobbying hard in the other direction. Should online sportsbooks be allowed access to the state of California, my guess is that a lot of tough conditions will be attached.
What Sports Can I Bet On When California Legalizes Sports Gambling?
Currently, you can legally place bets on horses, both in-person and online. But if the vote to legalize online sports gambling passes in November 2022, Californians will be opened up to a whole new world of sports betting. Once online sportsbooks switch on operation in the state, I doubt there will be a single sport that is inaccessible to Californians.
Finally, the joining horse betting on the list would be football, basketball, hockey, golf, soccer, tennis, volleyball, and every other sport you can think of. Of course, this is purely an assumption at this point. Until the law is put in writing there's absolutely no telling what it will ultimately contain. What we can say is that there's no current indication that any particular sport will be left off the list.
Deposit and Withdraw Methods in California Gambling
Safety and security are of primary importance when gambling online. You should only ever use the most highly recommended payment methods with which to entrust your financial information.
Luckily for you, all reputable sites partner with highly vetted payment providers, so you're usually very safe with any of the options offered by a quality site. Here are the deposit and withdrawal options you can expect:
- Credit and debit cards are the most easily understood concept, and most sites accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express.
- eWaIIets allow you to create a virtual wallet into which your funds can be transferred. From here, they can be transferred (both ways) in whole or in part onto the site in question. Popular eWaIIets include PavPal, Neteller and Skrill.
- Prepaid cards like PIay+ allow you to make deposits and withdrawals directly to the site you're playing at.
- Bank transfers are usually on offer too. This is handy and funds will be transferred directly into and out of your bank account, but it usually does take the longest out of all options.
- PayNearMe is a deposit-only option that allows you to visit a local 7-Eleven, CVS or Family Dollar to pay in-person and use a barcode to transfer funds into your account.
If you're playing at a social casino, you'll receive a slew of virtual currency when you register on the site for free. But you can also top up by buying coin packs or boosters. These can usually be purchased using one of the methods above. Always check out any attached terms and conditions for the fees you might be charged!
Bonuses to be Offered in California
Online bonuses aren't yet available in California, but that could all be about to change in 2023. If the vote to introduce online sportsbooks goes through, Californians will finally get to experience the thrill of a value-driven sports bonus.
There's no way to tell exactly which bonuses and promotions will be on the table, but we can make a fair guess by taking a look at what the top sites are offering other players across the US. It usually begins with a welcome offer, where players can activate match bets or free bets that sometimes go well over $1,000 in value.
After that, there's usually a string of deposit match offers, free bets, odds boosters, and even cashback on losing bets. We won't go into detail on casino bonuses at this stage, since their legality in California is still very much a pipe dream.
Our thoughts on how California is Developing
When it comes to the future of online gambling in California, the world is sitting at the edge of its seat. The landscape is changing, and it all hangs on one November 2022 vote. Of course, we're referring to an update on the sports betting laws only.
Unfortunately, online casinos remain firmly forbidden within the state. While online sportsbooks could see their dawn as soon as 2023, it's unlikely that the same fate is on the cards for online casinos. The Californian Indian tribes have full control of all land-based casinos, and online versions of those coming into the picture would see a dramatic drop in their profits.
They lobby the state government hard to ensure this doesn't happen, and it seems like they'll be successful for a long time yet. Instead, we'll turn our focus on California sports betting, which is set to evolve into a thriving market - we just don't yet know if it will be in-person betting or online betting that comes out victorious.
California Gambling FAQs