Home » Legal Online Poker by State and Latest News » Online Poker in California

Online Poker in California

California Internet Poker Laws
Online Poker in California
Last Updated January 6, 2021

Too many players, California – not Nevada – is the center of the poker universe.  The state has earned that reputation thanks largely to the card clubs that host high-stakes cash and tournament action year-round.  When it comes to online poker, and gambling in general, players are likely to have a number of questions and concerns.  That’s why we’ve assembled this guide to online poker in California that encompasses legal issues, history, the very latest regarding poker news from the Golden State and which sites accept CA players.

California’s appearance in gambling headlines is generally a result of some new delay or disagreement regarding the state’s efforts to legalize online poker California.  The state has been going back and forth on the issue for approximately ten years now, and recent attempts to rally support for a revised approach also fell flat. While progress was made in the last few years to garner the quell the opposition of the horse racing industry, the bad actor clause remains the final sticking point on which there is no compromise.

Is Gambling Legal in California?

State Code Section(s)PEN.1.9.10330-337; BPC.4-5
Definition of GamblingGambling: To deal, operate, carry on, conduct, maintain, or expose for play any controlled game.
Definition of Banking Game or Banked GameBanking game or banked game: Does not include a controlled game if the published rules of the game feature a player-dealer position and provide that this position must be continuously and systematically rotated amongst each of the participants during the play of the game, ensure that the player-dealer is able to win or lose only a fixed and limited wager during the play of the game, and preclude the house, another entity, a player, or an observer from maintaining or operating as a bank during the course of the game.
Online Poker/GamblingFor 10 years (2006-2016), lawmakers considered variations of online poker legislation but failed to pass one through both houses. Some special interests were placated through the years, but the tribes and card rooms could not find agreement on “bad actor” language. Lawmakers finally gave up after finding no compromises in 2016 and have yet to revisit the issue.
Live PokerLive cash games and tournaments are permitted in more than 100 licensed card rooms throughout the state and casinos on Indian reservations. There are special rules pertaining to draw poker, which must be approved by voters in counties with large populations.
CasinosIn addition to card rooms that offer non-house-banked games like poker and California blackjack, casinos are located throughout the state on various Indian reservations. Most of those casinos are complete with table games, slot machines, and other games like keno and bingo.
Sports BettingA bill introduced in 2017 to legalize sports betting was still in action in 2018 but had yet to pass as of the summer session.
DFSCalifornia considered daily fantasy sports in 2016, but no bill passed, and there have been no proposals since.
Other Forms of GamblingLottery, pari-mutuel horse wagering, charitable gambling.

Recent California Headlines for 2019

While progress was made in the last few years to garner the quell the opposition of the horse racing industry, the bad actor clause remains the final sticking point on which there is no compromise. The most recent attempt at a bill in 2017 by longtime online poker supporter Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer was met with such resistance to compromise on the bad actor debate that the bill was considered dead by mid-April. Jones-Sawyer noted that it might be best to start from the beginning, which looks like won’t happen until 2018 at the soonest.

One interesting development in 2017 was the withdrawal of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians from the PokerStars coalition. The move came about due to the exhaustion of funds over many years pertaining to this issue with no clear resolution in sight, but it leaves the PokerStars group weakened, now boasting of the Morongo tribe as the only Native American faction on board with the removal of the bad actor clause. Future developments regarding this coalition may make way for a new round of talks.

There was little news regarding online poker in 2018. Jones-Sawyer had been so disenchanted with the breakdown of talks in 2017 – after ten years of efforts – that he chose not to introduced online poker legislation in 2018. He suggested that the possibility of legalized sports betting might bring all of the stakeholders back the to the table with more open minds, and online poker might find an avenue via a joint bill. But despite the US Supreme Court ruling in May 2018 that allowed states to regulate sports betting as they chose, California wasn’t one of the states that considered any proposals.

Meanwhile, tribal casino operators’ longstanding frustrations with California card room operators took a new turn. It started many years ago when tribal leaders complained to the California Gambling Control Commission and Bureau of Gambling Control about card rooms that refuse to adhere to the letter of the law regarding banked and percentage-based table games. Tribes asserted that card rooms worked around the law by using third-party proposition players to fill open spots at tables and act as the bank, but the rotations do not take place per the law. After years of inaction by the state’s gambling regulators, the tribes took matters into their own hands. In November, the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians and Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians filed a lawsuit against numerous casinosin the state, including Bicycle Casino, Commerce Casino, Oceans 11, Hollywood Park, Hawaiian Gardens, Hustler, 25 unnamed proposition players, and unnamed third-party prop player providers.

California Sports Betting Laws 2021

Frustrated lawmakers, frustrated tribal leaders, and scrutinized card rooms may find it difficult to come together on sports betting, online poker, or any other gambling-related matter in 2021

All Poker and Gambling Laws by State

California in the News
  • November 27th, 2018

    They said they would do it, and they did it. And this may only be the beginning. The Rincon Band of Luiseno Mission Indians and Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Mission Indians joined together to file a lawsuit in the County of San Diego in the Superior Court of California.

    Read Full
  • November 5th, 2018

    California may not have made any recent progress regarding the legalization of online poker, but the state remains one of the most popular for poker players. There are currently more than 150 card rooms in the state, ranging from small rooms to large facilities dedicated primarily to poker, as well

    Read Full
  • September 25th, 2018

    A successful poker player must have confidence. Gordon Vayo has displayed that quality on numerous occasions at the poker tables, whether playing live or online, but none more than in the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event. On the biggest stage in poker, playing for one of the largest

    Read Full
  • February 14th, 2018

    That was quick. Not even two full months into 2018 and news emerges that California will not pursue online poker legislation this year. Even the future in California is unclear and seems dependent upon the upcoming US Supreme Court decision regarding sports betting. According to one legislator who has been

    Read Full
  • November 25th, 2017

    California has 88 cardrooms currently operating throughout the state, not including those inside many of the 62 tribal casino operations. The vast majority of cardrooms run smoothly and legitimately, staying well within the guidelines of the California Gambling Control Commission (CGCC) and federal gambling statutes. However, the number of incidents

    Read Full
  • November 21st, 2017

    California is a haven for cardrooms. Currently, the California Gambling Control Commission (CGCC) shows 88 active cardrooms throughout the state with 1,997 total tables in operation. This is in addition to the tribal gambling operations in California, which currently total 62 casinos. While state legislators have yet to find agreement

    Read Full

California Online Poker Legislation

The path to legalized online poker in California has been full of disappointments. Assemblyman Mike Gatto once claimedthat California’s legislature has seen two to six online gambling bills every year since 2008, with none of them being remotely successful. After significant progress in 2016 that resulted in yet another failure, and a total of ten years of attempts to legalize and regulate California real-money online poker, the issue was put on indefinite hold in 2017 due to a stalemate that has caused many lawmakers and interested parties to leave the discussions in frustration.

The Basics of Playing Online Poker in California

You don’t need to know much about California to know that poker is massively popular in the state.  Whether it’s the constant action at the state’s card rooms, the regular presence of California-based players on poker’s world stage, or the steady stream of online poker news coming from the state, everything points to one conclusion: Californians are playing Internet poker in numbers that far outstrip any other state in the US (and probably quite a few countries as well).

Like most, poker players want to know that they’re playing at a reputable site which will offer a fair game.  We suggest only sites that are properly licensed and regulated in their jurisdiction, ensuring that Californians play only at legal poker rooms online.  You can view this page to get a list of the best sites for your state.

About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

Disclaimer: The information on this site is my interpretation of the laws as made available online. It is in no way meant to serve as legal advice or instruction. We recommend that you seek legal advice from a licensed attorney for further or official guidance.

Leave a Reply