US Legal Sites
reviewed by experts

Legal Betting in California

If you plan to place any legal bets in the state of California, then you will have to travel to one of the various casinos or racetracks you’ll find throughout it. All forms of online gambling are currently illegal in CA, but that could be about to change if certain lawmakers who are working hard to overturn gambling laws in the Golden State get their way.

If you plan to place any legal bets in the state of California, then you will have to travel to one of the various casinos or racetracks you’ll find throughout it. All forms of online gambling are currently illegal in CA, but that could be about to change if certain lawmakers who are working hard to overturn gambling laws in the Golden State get their way.

Is Sports Betting Legal in California?

There have been several attempts to legalize sports betting in the state of California, but none of those bills ever really went anywhere. The Tribal Casinos in the state are also working to pass an initiative to be able to offer bets on live sports at their locations, and they appear to have the best chance of getting lawmakers to approve something.

Assemblyman Adam Gray was the first person to introduce a sports betting bill in California back in 2016. Gray filed the bill that year, but it didn’t gain any traction. A year later, he introduced ACA 18 to try to pass a constitutional amendment legalizing sports betting in the state. Again, his efforts went nowhere as lawmakers did not have a vote on it.

Native American tribes have recently created an initiative to get the topic of sports betting on the ballot in November. The California Legalize Sports Betting on American Indian Lands Initiative must get close to 1 million votes by June 25 for the issue to appear on the ballot.

If it passes, players would have to place all sports bets on-site at Native American casinos. That would effectively eliminate the possibility of online sports betting becoming legal in California.

Legal Gambling at Casinos in California

There are 69 Native American casinos in California. Outside of those locations, there are no online casino sites currently present in the state. There have been efforts to introduce casino sites in CA, but the Native American Tribes have too much at stake to allow that to happen.

The Native American Tribes that currently run and operate the 69 casinos in the state would love the opportunity to launch an online site, but state law does not allow for that. Players must therefore make all bets in-person at the casino.

State law does not prohibit anyone in the state from gambling online, but it does prohibit the running of an online casino. There have been some minor efforts to change these laws in CA, but lawmakers would need a two-thirds yes vote by the registered voters in the state to amend the California Constitution beforehand.

Understanding California’s Poker Laws

Poker is legal in CA as long as people play it at one of the tribal casinos that the state regulates. Poker games and card rooms date back to the 1940s, but the Golden State’s law now strictly prohibits playing poker anywhere other than in a tribal casino.

The online poker laws in California are a little bit confusing, but currently, there are no laws that allow tribal casinos to offer poker games online. The state passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006, and it prohibits anyone from making money through online poker or online gaming.  States can pass laws to override this, but that has yet to happen in CA

The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel tribe tried to challenge the law in 2014, but they were quickly served with an injunction from the state. After a long court battle, the state of California won, and authorities shut down the online poker site. Like online casinos, it will take an amendment to the state constitution to launch a poker site.

The Journey of Daily Fantasy Sports in California

Daily Fantasy Sports operators note that California is the largest DFS market in the United States, and all the major operators have a presence. Its government has made laws legalizing fantasy sports, but it has yet to pass a law to regulate its operators

While daily fantasy sports operators currently offer their services to the residents of California, experts don’t recommended partaking in these activities until lawmakers have fully passed legislation. If there are any updates regarding DFS laws in California, you will be able to follow them on this page.

The Background of California’s State Lottery

The state created the California Lottery in 1984 after most voters cast a ballot in favor of passing a lottery proposition. The California State Lottery Act of 1984 allowed for the creation of it, with organizers selling the first ticket a year later. Currently, there is no online version of the lottery in the state, and so far lawmakers have not introduced any bills to change these laws.

The California State Lottery Act of 1984 gave the governor the power to appoint a five-person commission to run the lottery. The California Lottery does not have any other powers, like lotteries in other states. 

Other states that have worked on legalizing sports betting have let their Lottery Commission regulate the industry, but that does not appear likely in California as it has such a small commission.

Other Important Gambling Facts About California

Gambling in California dates back to 1933 when a constitutional amendment legalized betting on horse races. Betting on horse racing online is legal, but that’s the only current form of online gambling that the state allows. 

Prop 37 created the California State Lottery in 1984, and in 1988 lawmakers passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act which gave tribes the ability to start building their casinos on tribal land.

Lawmakers in CA are hoping to legalize sports betting to produce revenue for the state, but if Native American Tribes take control of the sports betting industry, then the tax rate will be much lower.

What’s Next for California’s Gambling Industry?

If the Native American tribes can get enough signatures, then lawmakers would expand the gambling scene sometime in 2021. State lawmakers have tried to make online gambling in California legal for a few years, and they will continue to work hard to make this happen. 

Despite efforts throughout the years to legalize more forms of online gambling, nothing appears imminent in 2020. Even though the gambling laws in California are a bit confusing, there is plenty of hope that a change is coming.


No, gambling itself is legal in the state of California, and there are casinos and race tracks throughout where you can place bets and enjoy other different forms of gambling.

Owning or operating a sportsbook is illegal in the state of California, as is setting up or running your own online casino or poker room. The state also considers running or offering banking or percentage games with cards or dice an illegal form of gambling in the Golden State.

No, CA strictly prohibits betting on sports, despite attempts from local lawmakers to pass a law to legalize it.

No, online betting of any kind is not legal in the state of California. There have been attempts to make betting online legal in the state, but nothing has been made official up to this point.


Jon Young

Jon is a magazine editor and writer with over 15 years’ experience in the gambling industry. He has written articles on everything from video slots and roulette to sports betting, poker, and strategy.

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Learn more