Is Poker legal in California (ca)? Online Poker Laws in California Explained

California Poker

California California

  • Live Poker is allowed
  • Online Poker is forbidden
  • Online Casino is forbidden
  • Sports Betting is forbidden

Can You Play Online Poker in California?

Online poker in California seems to be a distant dream at best. For now, it seems that Golden State residents won’t be able to enjoy internet poker and online poker rooms any time soon. While some states have moved forward with legislation regarding online gambling, that hasn’t been the case for California. And that obviously damages the prospect for online poker as well.

California has complex gambling legislation, which makes matters worse. Attempts to launch California online gambling haven’t been successful, though California voters will decide in November 2022 whether to legalize sports betting. That being said, it is all down to financial implications. If, at some point, California online poker does make business sense, it will become available.

For now, California players can still enjoy one of the best markets in the US for live poker. While it isn’t possible to play online poker for real money in the state, players can still do it the classic way. There is no shortage of good poker rooms in CA. It is possible to play some of the best poker games in California poker rooms, including Texas Hold’em, Omaha and Seven-card Stud, among many other popular poker games.

Free Online Games in Texas

While there is no real money online poker in California, it is still possible to play other poker sites. Sweepstakes poker and social poker games are all legal alternatives in the state, and a decent workaround if you just want to play poker for fun. Sweepstakes poker sites, such as Global Poker, allow you to exchange the in-game currency for real cash and withdraw it.

There are plenty of free online games in California you can try your hand at. Check out our comprehensive list of tried and true free games to scratch your poker and gaming urge.

And, as the name would suggest, the best thing is these games are completely free to play! Click below to go straight to one of PokerNews' trusted social casino sites or keep reading to discover everything there is to know about poker in the Golden State.

California Gambling Introduction

Gambling in the US is always going to be a touchy subject. And it’s obviously no different for California. The Golden State’s gambling legislation has been in place since the 19th century. The California Penal Code prohibits casino games and house-banked games.

In 1933, a voter referendum legalized horse racing wagering. In 1976, California allowed charitable bingos, while the state lottery was approved in 1984.

While California gambling laws are quite strict, the prohibition does not apply to poker. Rather, California is arguably among the best in the US for poker players. In 1997, the Gambling Control Act established the creation of the California Gambling Control Commission, which, among other duties, became responsible for overseeing card rooms in the state.

California Gambling Control Commission
California Gambling Control Commission

Following the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, most online poker sites stopped taking in players from the US. Because of this, poker players in California aren’t able to play online for real money either.

Attempts to Legalize Online Poker

California has a rich history of attempting to legalize online poker that spans more than a decade.

In 2012, California lawmakers Darrell Steinberg and Roderick Wright introduced SB 1463 to “establish a framework to authorize intrastate Internet gambling” for players in the state. However, the bill failed to make it through committee and was never voted on.

A handful of online poker bills were considered in 2014 and 2015, including a bill by Assemblyman Adam Gray that unanimously advanced through California’s Government Organizations Committee in 2015, which was seen as a big milestone for online poker in the state. The bill, AB 431, died in the California Legislature and never went before the full body for a vote.

The next year, Gray sponsored another online poker bill, AB 2863, but once again the bill died in the Legislature after making it through committee.

The effort to legalize online poker in California lost momentum in the following years and, in 2018, the attention shifted to sports betting as the US Supreme Court struck down a federal law banning commercial sports gambling.

While legislative efforts to legalize online poker in California have died down in recent years, a ballot measure titled California Legalize Sports Betting Initiative will appear on the November 2022 ballot, leaving the issue up to voters. If California voters do choose to legalize sports betting, it could open the door for legalizing other forms of online gambling, including poker.

California Poker Legality

Poker is legal to play in California. While the state legislation prohibits most forms of gambling, it does have some exceptions, especially when it comes to card games. Since poker doesn’t fall under the house-banked games prohibition, players in California are allowed to enjoy live poker.

However, the state has yet to make any advances on its online gambling legislation. Despite a recent boom in sports betting and other states making significant progress in moving forward with internet gambling, California has been lagging behind.

For now, playing online poker in California for real money remains illegal. That doesn’t mean, however, that players in California aren’t allowed to play poker online. Sweepstakes poker and social poker games are still legal, although you won’t be able to play for real cash.

California Poker History

California flag

California has a lengthy history of poker and gambling that dates back to the Gold Rush in the mid-1800s.

Ahead of the turn of the 20th century, California lawmakers outlawed all forms of gambling, including stud poker, but failed to mention draw poker. Then, in 1911, California Attorney General Ulysses S. Webb issued an opinion stating that draw poker was not prohibited by state law.

After the opinion, poker clubs sprouted up throughout the state to offer draw games, especially in southern California and the Los Angeles area. Additionally, there were gambling ships that operated in Santa Monica Bay. However, politicians shut down many of these poker hubs in the 1930s over varying interpretations of the law.

In the coming decades, California courts ruled both ways on whether draw games were banned under state law. Then, in 1987, California legalized flop games including Texas Hold’em, Stud and Omaha poker, settling the debate on the legality of poker in the state.

California Poker Rooms

Players still have plenty of options to play poker in California. The state gambling legislation does allow card rooms, so live poker is perfectly legal. According to the California Gambling Control Commission official website, the state currently has over 60 operating card rooms out of 85 active licenses. CA has 1,828 tables for card games, including poker.

The state gambling legislation allows tribal casinos as well as horse racing bets along with its card rooms and poker rooms. Commercial casinos are still prohibited, and so is real money gambling online. So, for now, California players will have to remain without a single online poker site.

Best California Poker Rooms

While online poker is currently not an option for California residents and visitors, the Golden State is no stranger to action-packed and exciting live poker games.

Perhaps the most booming poker scene in the state is in Los Angeles, which is home to some of the largest brick-and-mortar poker rooms in the world.

The most popular among these are the Bicycle Casino and Commerce Casino, the former of which hosts the popular live-streamed “Live at the Bike” cash games and features 185 tables, while other LA poker hubs include the Hustler Casino, Hollywood Park Casino, The Gardens Casino and Larry Flynt’s Lucky Lady Casino.

Head a little further south and you’ll find plenty of live poker options, as well. Popular poker rooms in the San Diego area include Jamul Casino Seven Mile Casino, Sycuan Casino, Ocean’s 11 Casino.

Sycuan Casino
Sycuan Casino

Heading up the coast, you’ll find a few smaller poker rooms like Paso Robles Casino, Central Coast Casino Grover Beach, Players Casino and Outlaws Card Parlour. Keep going north and you’ll find poker at Garlic City Casino, Oceanview Casino, Bankers Casino and Casino Monterey - The Marina Club.

The two biggest poker rooms in the Sacramento area are Thunder Valley Casino and Stones Gambling Hall, while Capitol Casino is another option for grinders in the area.

Northern California, meanwhile, is home to poker rooms such as Towers Casino, Casino Club, Elk Valley Casino, Casino Chico and Casino 99.

It isn’t possible to play real money online poker in California. However, there are some legal workarounds that do allow you to play online poker in the state. The options available are sweepstakes poker and social games.

Sweepstakes poker allows you to exchange its in-game currency for sweepstakes. You can then wager these and in turn exchange them for cash later. While you won’t be playing for real cash, this is as close as it gets. Social poker games, on the other hand do not pay any cash whatsoever. You will be playing for an in-game currency that has no use outside of the poker site.

California Online Poker and Penal Code

With no viable options to play poker online for money in California, some players might consider offshore poker sites as an alternative. Playing online at an offshore poker site is considered a grey area.

While not exactly illegal, there is no way of telling if it is considered legal either. You most likely won’t get into legal trouble for playing at an offshore online poker site. However, it’s highly advisable that you avoid doing so, even though some of these sites do accept U.S. online poker players.

Offshore online poker sites aren’t regulated by US gambling authorities. Instead, these sites operate under licenses issued by other international gambling authorities. These licenses don’t have many requirements, and regulation isn’t as strict. Additionally, these sites offer very little player protection. Some of them might be reliable, but it can also be a bit of a dice roll. One way or the other, you are better off avoiding offshore online poker sites.

California Online Poker Sites

California does not have a poker site to play online for real cash yet. Since the state has yet to make any significant inroads regarding online gaming, the situation will likely remain this way in the near future.

Well-known online real money poker sites such as PokerStars, PartyPoker, 888Poker and WSOP aren’t allowed to offer their games in California.

A good legal alternative to play online poker in California is Global Poker. This sweepstakes poker site accepts players from CA. Since you won’t be playing for actual cash, it does not infringe the state gambling legislation. At the same time, sweepstakes poker is the closest you can get to playing online poker for real cash in California.

Global Poker in California

Global Poker
Global Poker

Global Poker is a sweepstakes poker site available for players in California. You won’t be playing for real cash, however. Rather, you are allowed to buy in-game coins and exchange them for sweep coins. Global Poker allows you to redeem sweep coins for real cash after wagering them in the games. Since it doesn’t directly involve cash wagering, Global Poker is legal to play in California.

Poker games available to play at Global Poker include Texas Hold’em and Omaha. It also offers Sit ‘n Go tournaments and Bounty tournaments. Players in CA can also enjoy online poker with social gambling apps. These do not involve real cash either, although it isn’t possible to redeem the in-game currency for actual money.

Poker games that involve any form of money wagering, such as cash games, aren’t available to play in California.

California Poker Games

Players in CA won’t have any trouble finding card rooms, which are legal under the state gambling regulation. Poker rooms in California offer many popular poker game variants, including Hold’em, Omaha, Card-Stud and many others.

Online poker isn’t available to play for actual money, so cash games aren’t available for players in California. For now, sweepstakes poker and social gaming apps remain the only way for players to enjoy online poker. California does not have any plans yet to introduce online poker for real cash in the state.

Land-based operators aren’t allowed to offer online poker. California poker players will likely have to wait for a while longer before the state legislators actually make some progress with online gaming regulations. If it does happen eventually, California players will be able to enjoy all the popular online poker game variants. Poker sites such as PokerStars, PartyPoker, 888Poker and WSOP offer Hold’em, No-Limit Hold’em, Pot-Limit Hold’em, Omaha variants, Seven-card Stud and many other poker games.

California Online Gambling

There have been no significant inroads to legalize internet gambling in California yet. This means that state residents won’t be able to enjoy popular online poker operators such as PokerStars, PartyPoker, 888Poker or WSOP, all of which already offer their services in other states.

A recent attempt by the Lipay Nation of Santa Ysabel’s Desert Rose to run an online bingo site did not succeed. The online bingo site had a complicated workaround ato offer legal online gaming, but the 9th Circuit of Court Appeals ultimately ruled against it. Since the precedent has already been set, it looks like online gaming in California will remain in the limbo for a bit longer.

California Poker Sites FAQ

How to play online poker in California?

For now, the only ways available to play poker online in California are sweepstakes poker sites and social gaming. While you likely won’t get into legal trouble for playing at offshore sites, you are better off avoiding this option. There is no current precedent to penalize players for this, but offshore sites aren’t regulated by U.S. authorities. Therefore, they have no requirements to follow U.S. legislation. Additionally, they operate under relatively lax regulations and a good number of them do not offer enough protection to the players.

What California poker sites take PayPal?

Online poker isn’t legal in California, so there are no internet poker operators in the state. In other words, you can’t use PayPal to deposit since online poker isn’t legalized in the state. Live poker at card rooms is the only way to play poker for actual cash in California.

What poker sites are legal in California?

The only sites legal in California are sweepstakes poker and social gaming. These are legal alternatives for online poker in California, although they do not offer real cash wagering. California does not allow any forms of online gambling, and that also applies for online poker.

Where can you play online poker in California?

The online poker alternatives available in California are sweepstakes poker, such as Global Poker, and social gaming. These do not offer real money poker games however, since California does not allow online gambling. Cash games and other poker games that involve any form of money wagering aren’t available for players in California.

Is PokerStars legal in California?

No, PokerStars isn’t legal in California. The state does not allow internet gambling, which means that popular online poker operators such as PokerStars, PartyPoker, 888poker and WSOP aren’t allowed to offer their games in California territory.

Is it legal to play online poker in the US?

Yes, online poker is legal to play in the US. You can play for real cash if you are at least 21 years old and physically located in one of the states that allow online poker. These states are Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

Can I gamble online in California?

No, you cannot gamble online in California. The state gambling legislation does not allow internet gambling, so it isn’t possible to bet on sports, play any online casino games or any online poker games. However, California does allow tribal casinos and land-based card rooms.

Is playing poker for money illegal in California?[/H]

No, playing poker for money isn’t illegal in California, since poker is one of the gambling options available in the state. California card rooms aren’t allowed to offer house-banked games. This is not the case for poker, which means that you can play poker games for money in CA.

What kind of gambling is legal in California?

The forms of legal gambling in California are tribal casinos, card rooms, charitable gambling and horse racing wagering. The state does not allow any forms of internet gambling, however. Commercial casinos and sports betting are also illegal in California.

Where is poker legal in the US? Which States can I play online poker in?

Choose a state to find out more about state legislation:

  • Regulation is currently under discussion
  • Regulation has been discussed but no recent movement
  • No legislation