California has a long list of laws that relate to gambling, but none specifically mention online gambling. Certainly there are many places where it is definitely legal to play live games of poker in California. The state regulates dozens of card rooms, and many tribal casinos in California also host live poker games.
Some other legal forms of poker in California include social games (as long as no one is taking a rake from the games), and charitable poker games are also considered legal in California. So, pretty much you can play land-based poker almost anywhere in California as long as you are not playing a home game in which someone is taking rake. However, what about online poker in California?
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Can Players From California Play Poker Online?
Yes! There are several US poker sites that offer games to players from the United States and no restrictions exist to prevent Californian residents playing at any US facing online poker site. Indeed, Californians have enjoyed considerable success in recent years at the online poker tables – most notably Taylor “FortheNguyen” Black taking down the first ever Million Dollar Sunday for $200,000.
Is it Legal to Play Online Poker in California?
It is neither legal nor illegal to play online poker in California. The fact that the state has not yet regulated online poker does not make it illegal to play. The only differences between a regulated online poker site and an unregulated (or “offshore”) poker site is that – as a player – you do not get the same level of consumer protection at an unregulated poker site, but you benefit from lower rake and higher rewards.
Technically speaking, the laws concerning gambling in California often refer to the term percentage game. The laws basically state that the operator of the game can’t take a percentage of the pot. Land based casinos have found a way around this, but as we all know online casinos do take a percentage of the pot in the way of rake. However, the rake is capped in online casino games, so there is not an exact percentage being taken from each hand played.
We have some interesting facts about gambling online in California below:
- Californian laws do not currently address the legality of online poker.
- Commercial casinos are authorized by the state of California.
- Tribal casinos throughout California have legal poker rooms.
- All forms of poker are legal except games that take a percentage.
- Charitable poker games are legal in California.
- Online poker has not yet been regulated in the state of California.
- No individual has ever had charges brought against them for playing online poker in California.
California Gambling History
The Gold Rush in California brought people from all over to the state seeking gold. It also brought gambling to the state. It turns out that a lot of the people that did make it to California and find gold liked to gamble. Gambling halls were set up in saloons and other establishments around the state.
This gave California a boost in income since the state and local government charged a fee to gambling establishments. This extra income for the state came to an end in 1850s when the new immigrants to the state disapproved of gambling and wanted it banned. The only form of gambling that survived this ban was poker.
The California constitution considers poker a game of skill instead of gambling. There are more than 100 card rooms in California. Many of these establishments are small, but California is also the home of the Commerce Casino which has over 243 poker tables. This is one of the largest poker rooms in the United States.
The legislation for casinos in California was virtually nonexistent prior to 1998. The Gambling Control Act was enacted in late 1997 and put into place to regulate the gaming industry in California. State governed facilities have very strict rules and only certain games can be offered in these facilities.
Once the Gambling Control Act was put in place state run facilities had very strict rules to follow, but tribal casinos could still do pretty much whatever they wanted to. This all changed in March, 2000. The voters of California passed Proposition 1A. This amendment provided regulation for tribal casinos. The state now works with the Tribe to ensure that the casinos are run fairly without any criminal activity. The Tribes can still offer a variety of games that state run facilities are not allowed to offer, but patrons playing at the Tribal casinos can rest assured that the games are fair.
Legalized Gambling Options in California
California has a plethora of gambling facilities to choose from. Card rooms, tribal casinos, race tracks, and the state lottery are at your disposal in California. California offers more gambling avenues than any other state in the US barring Nevada.
Will California Regulate Online Poker in the Future?
This is a question that has been asked for more than a decade. Currently there is little optimism about regulated online poker in California due to animosity between some tribal casinos and a coalition of parties in favor of regulation. The tribal casinos claim to be in favor of regulated poker, but want “bad actors” – operators that provided a service to Californians post-UIGEA – excluded from any regulated market.
As the leading force in the coalition of parties is PokerStars, there is an impasse between the two sides. PokerStars won´t agree to any penalty (having already settled claims against the company with the Department of Justice), while the tribal casinos believe the site will have an unfair advantage due to the site´s previous goodwill among Californian online poker players.
The issue may be resolved in the future if federal law is reversed to allow online sports betting – in which case online poker may be included in a compendium of online gambling measures. However, this is not necessarily guaranteed, as the “bad actor” disagreement could extend beyond online poker to affect the regulation of all online activities. The conclusion is, don´t hold your breath.