California Online Gambling: Casino, Poker & Sports Betting

When it comes to California online gambling, there are a lot of restrictions placed on California residents. In California, online casinos, online sportsbooks, and traditional online poker sites are illegal. But you do have a few options when it comes to online gaming. These options include California online casino games for cash prizes.

Moreover, the state of California may run special “second chance” promotions on scratchers. You can play online poker for sweepstake entries. You can bet online on horse races. And you can play Daily Fantasy Sports, which is legal in almost all US states.

Beyond that, California residents are limited to brick-and-mortar casinos and sportsbooks or illegal betting websites.

Online Casino Sites In California

Although online gambling is fairly restrictive in the state, players have access to California sweepstakes sites to play casino games and poker. People located in California have access to all the major sweepstakes sites. This includes sweepstakes casinos, poker sites, and sportsbooks.

California currently does not offer legal online casino games, traditional poker sites, or online sports betting. But it is possible to win cash prizes through sweepstakes sites, and you can do so in similar ways to their real-money counterparts.

In June 2020, talks of legalizing online sportsbooks were shot down by opposition from tribal casinos, which currently make up all casinos in the state with the exception of cardrooms. The takeaway is that legal sportsbooks may come to Native American casinos and racetracks, but won’t be available online anytime soon.

What Sweepstakes Products Can I Play In California?

Online Casinos

California currently allows sweepstakes casinos: Chumba Casino, LuckyLand, and FunzPoints

Chumba shares a parent company with Global Poker, so many of its terms and conditions and other sections of the website are identical. The benefit here is that if you understand how Gold Coins (GC) versus Sweeps Coins (SC) works on one site, you understand it for the other.

However, LuckyLand also utilizes the GC and SC structure with no difference except for one: you can redeem your SC when you have 50. Chumba requires SC 100 for prize redemption.

But ultimately, Chumba is the better social casino of the two for offering twice as many slots, bigger progressive jackpots, and a few table games. LuckyLand’s most unique selling point is offering digital scratch cards. It doesn’t offer table games, though.

Online Poker Sites

Global Poker is a sweepstakes poker site. It is also California’s only legal form of online poker that can result in cash prizes. 

While you can join offshore poker sites from the state, they are technically considered illegal. No arrests have been made against players as of yet, but you don’t want to be in the crosshairs if that suddenly changes. You also might run into some tax issues. All gambling winnings, even from offshore casinos, are taxable income. 

Global Poker is where you can play online poker in California with total peace of mind.

The site is set up just like a traditional online poker site. But to play, you buy packages of Gold Coins (GC), some of which come with Sweeps Coins (SC). The GC are used to play for fun and cannot be redeemed for a cash prize. However, you can redeem SC for cash prizes.

Online Sportsbook Sites

FendOff is a social sportsbook that takes picks on all types of sports. You can choose moneyline, points spread, over/under, futures, and exotics. You can also do both in-game and pregame picks, and you have access to a full racebook with a pari-mutuel structure.

Just like with Chumba, LuckyLand, and Global Poker, you purchase Gold Coins (GC) to play at FendOff. Some of the GC packages include Sweeps (SW). Once you have at least SW 50, you can redeem for cash prizes.

How Are Sweepstakes Sites Different From Online Casino Sites?

You’ll see a lot of talk about technicalities and other convoluted explanations about sweepstakes. This is particularly true when they’re directly compared to online gambling sites. But the difference is actually very straightforward.

At an online gambling site, you load money into your account. This would be like putting money in your PayPal account. You can then use that money to bet at the online gambling site.

At a sweepstakes site, you purchase the website’s currency, which is usually called “Gold Coins” (GC). The more Gold Coins you buy, the more Sweeps Coins (SW) are included in your purchase. Once you play the games (for casinos and poker sites) or make your picks (for sportsbooks) using the SC, you can redeem whatever SC is leftover for a cash prize.

Here’s a helpful table based on buying Chumba Casino’s Gold Coins:

What You PayNumber Of Gold CoinsSweeps Coins Included
$1500,000None
$51 millionSC 5.05
$104 millionNone
$205 millionSC 20.5

The numbers go on from there. If you want SC included in your purchase, make sure you buy the number of GC that corresponds with the amount of SC you want.

Can You Win Real Money At Sweepstakes Casinos And Poker Sites From California?

No, you can’t win real money at sweepstakes casinos and poker sites from California. Social gaming platforms are not set up like gambling sites, so you cannot simply deposit and cash out.

Instead, you receive Sweeps Coins (SC) that can be redeemed for a cash prize or a gift card.

Before you can redeem any sweeps coins that you’ve received, you have to play with them at least once.

At Chumba, for example, you may receive SC 1.00 just for logging in. If you use it all to play at a slot and win SC 10.00 on a spin, you can redeem that SC 10.00 for a gift card. Or you can continue to play whatever games you want with SC in the hopes of garnering SC 100. If you do, you can redeem it for a cash prize.

You can experience playing casino games and poker tables with huge amounts of Gold Coins (GC). Global Poker has GC tournaments that can pay out over GC 100 million. Chumba Casino’s progressive jackpot slots can boast top prizes over GC 2 billion.

However, you cannot redeem GC for cash prizes or gift cards. Only SW can result in prizes that apply to purchases outside of the sweepstakes site.

What Kinds Of Bonuses Do Sweepstakes Casinos And Poker Sites Offer To Players In California?

Signup Bonus

Sweepstakes casinos and other social gaming sites must allow players to win cash prizes without making a purchase. Just for creating an account, sweepstakes players receive free Gold Coins (GC) as well as Sweeps Coins (SC).

Daily Login Bonuses

Much like the initial signup bonus, you receive GC and SC just for logging in to your account. 

This can be during the first week or two after you join. But at LuckyLand, you can start a consecutive login streak that awards progressively larger bonuses each day in a row that you login.

Mail-In Sweeps

Another legal requirement for social gaming sites is the mail-in sweeps offer. To receive two or more SC, you can mail a request directly to the website. Just be sure to follow all instructions exactly to qualify.

Discount GC Packages

Once you join a sweepstakes site, you’ll receive promotional offers in your inbox. These usually include the chance to purchase GC packs that include SC for a discount. The most common discount is 50% off.

Social Media Contests

Follow the sweepstakes sites you’ve joined on their social media channels so you don’t miss out on one of these contests. All you have to do is let them know you’re participating, and you could receive a large package of GC and SC for free.

What Kinds Of Games Are Available At California’s Sweepstakes Poker Sites?

Global Poker offers many of the same games that you’d find at the most traditional online poker sites like 888, WSOP, and PokerStars. The biggest difference is the option to play in either Gold Coins (GC) or Sweeps Coins (SC).

The formats for the different types of games are Texas Hold’em, Omaha, or Crazy Pineapple. At Global Poker, all game types are available in all three formats. However, the most popular Texas Hold’em format offers the largest variety of tables.

Here are the games Global Poker offers. The stakes are presented in SC because that is the most popular form of in-site currency used.

GameLowest StakesHighest Stakes
Ring Games (small blind/big blind)SC 0.02/SC 0.04SC 10/SC 20
Tournament (tickets)SC 0.11SC 33
Sit ‘n’ Go (entry fee/jackpot)SC 0.05/SC 0.5SC 18/SC 200
Jackpot Sit ‘n’ Go (entries/jackpot)SC 0.5/up to SC 5,000SC 20/ up to SC 200,000

Ring Games

Playing at Ring Games allows players to sit at a table whenever a seat is open and leave at any time. People in California always have access to an SC table with micro, low, medium, and high stakes 24 hours a day.

Tournaments

Tournaments are scheduled throughout the day, although some are held only once a week. You begin at a table of players and the last one standing progresses to the next table. Grand prizes usually depend on the number of entries.

Sit ‘n’ Go (Regular and Jackpot)

Sit ‘n’ Go are similar to tournaments except that the goal is to eliminate all players at a single table. The regular version awards a fixed top prize. The jackpot version randomly generates a top prize that can be as high as SC 200,000.

What Kinds Of Slots Can I Play At Sweepstakes Casinos?

Both sweepstakes casinos offer as many or more slots than most of the legal online gambling casinos in Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

While Chumba has twice as many options as its main competitor, LuckyLand still boasts over 30 options.

The kinds of slots you can play run the gamut. At both social casinos, you can play three-reel classics as well as five-reel 3D slots with progressive jackpots.

Where Chumba Casino really outshines LuckyLand is in the top prize department. While LuckyLand has progressives that rise to over SC 20,000, Chumba has cash prize potential that’s in the millions.

For that reason, these Chumba Casino options reign supreme as the most popular slots of the close to 100 different options at both social casinos:

Western Gold

Western Gold is by far the most popular standalone progressive jackpot slot. This five-reel, 50 line game is about the Wild West, namely sheriffs versus bandits, moonshine, and Colt .45s.

At the time of writing this, the grand prize was SC 947,000. If that’s won, it can be redeemed for a massive cash prize. However, you can also score the minor or mini jackpots, which also displayed impressive SC tickers.

Dancing Gold & Stallion Grand

Dancing Gold and Stallion Grand share a progressive jackpot. This means that SC played on either slot contributes to the same progressive. 

The total today is SC 278,000, and it’s always an amount that can result in a life-changing cash prize. You can also win a mini, minor, or major jackpot, which is lower than the grand prize but still impressive.

Wild Roads & Triple Double Fever

Another shared progressive is the Wild Roads & Triple Double Fever slots. The grand prize when this was written sat at SC 224,000.

Wild Roads & Triple Double Fever are both three-reel, five-line slots that provide the chance to win major, minor, and mini jackpots. 

However, their popularity is often overtaken by the Stampede Fury & Reelin n’ Rockin shared progressive. Whichever has the highest SC grand prize are deemed the hottest slots of the day.

Sweepstakes Poker Sites: How Hard Are The Games?

Sweepstakes poker sites have a reputation across the online poker community as having inexperienced players. And a lack of experience translates to easy pickings, which attracts some of the best online poker players for that reason alone.

However, the professional level players located in California will likely play offshore real-money sites as their main source of online poker play. But because cardrooms are legal in California (versus casinos, which are limited to Native American tribal land), most of the best play in-person.

Still, that doesn’t apply to all states across the country, and not all experienced online poker players are willing to skirt the law. That means, among the thousands of active users on Global Poker, many are better than most at playing the game.

Is it easy to win Sweeps Tournaments at Global Poker?

The larger the jackpot, the harder it is to win at Global Poker. Huge winning potential will attract the best players. This makes it extremely difficult to win a multi-table tourney for a large SC grand prize.

Is it easy to win Sit ‘n’ Go at Global Poker?

Inexperienced players are more likely to get lucky at a Sit ‘n’ Go tournament at Global Poker because you only need to beat out a few players at one table to win.

Still, the higher the potential SC prize, the harder the competition. There’s no outright easy Sit ‘n’ Go options if you’re looking to play with SC.

What are the easiest games at Global Poker?

The easiest games are low stakes SC ring games and any game that’s played for Gold Coins. 

The most serious players will go for the highest cash prize potential, so the lower the SC, the lower the competition. 

And Gold Coins are all but disregarded by experienced players for the fact that you can’t redeem them for cash prizes.

California Online Casinos For Real Money

There is currently no legally licensed online casino available to people located in California. Californians can travel to states with legal online casinos to bet on digital casino games. They can even join and deposit without placing a bet at many American online casinos. But doing both from within the state is currently against the law.

Will online casinos be legalized in California? Not anytime soon. No recent news coverage has identified any online casino legislation in the works. While the federal government no longer restricts states from legalizing online casinos, it’s up to the state to pass the legislation, issue licenses, and regulate operators.

Online Sports Betting In California

The online sportsbook is another betting option currently unavailable to those located in California.

Folks with legal residencies in states where online sports betting is legal (like Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) cannot place a bet in those states unless they’re physically located within state lines. In that same vein, California residents can legally bet in those states as long as they’re located within the borders.

Further, the state of California doesn’t even offer land-based sportsbooks aside from horse race betting at retail race tracks.

However, many people located in California are a close drive from Nevada, where they can place sports bets online and at brick-and-mortar sportsbook locations.

Online Poker In California

Online poker is currently unavailable in California. However, this is one area where legislation is moving forward.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, state legislators scheduled a bill for vote in November 2020. Whereas some states, like Maryland, moved forward on scheduling votes and referendums, California’s legislation is currently stalled.

For the time being, poker players in California are limited to land-based poker tables. But Southern California is largely considered the brick-and-mortar poker capital of the world, as it’s one of the few places in the country to allow poker since the 1930s.

That’s on top of this being one of the richest regions, inviting both international, national, and local high-rollers to some of the most sought-after seats in world poker.

No wonder so many Hollywood celebrities double as professional poker players, including Tobey Maguire, Ben Affleck, and Jennifer Tilly.

Playing The California Lottery Online

An online lottery is not legally offered in California. Normally, the only online interaction a Californian can have with the lottery is by checking a ticket to see if it’s a winner. You simply download the app and scan the barcode.

Some websites allow you to purchase foreign lottery tickets. But you have to trust that they’ll both buy the ticket for you in-person and pay out any winnings. Even more so than online casinos, we recommend avoiding offshore lottery websites. Imagine if you won a million dollars. What’s to stop them from keeping the money? They have possession of the ticket, and you have zero recourse because the website is unlicensed.

However, California launched a “second chance” promotion for scratch-off tickets in 2019. After a ticket is purchased, you can log in to the California Lottery app and try your luck at another chance to win. Two people won over a million dollars, so keep your eye out for the next time they roll out a promotion like that.

But, in general, you can’t log in to the California Lottery app and buy tickets online. You have to go to a local retailer (the nearest of which is probably around the corner from your home).

Horse Race Betting

Brick-and-mortar horse racing in California spans four full-time tracks up and down the state: Santa Anita Park, Del Mar Racetrack, Golden Gate Fields, and Los Alamitos Race Course. You can bet on those races remotely direct with some of the tracks – or from legal horse race betting websites.

See our comprehensive Guide To Online Horse Betting In The US.

Popular Horse Racing Sites In California

The most popular legal horse racing sites include TVG, Xpressbet, TwinSpires, and BetAmerica. Each hosts a wide range of events that span the entire globe. This includes races in Australia and Southeast Asia, on top of all the tracks within the US.

These websites are popular outlets for two simple reasons: traveling to the track isn’t always feasible, and the promotions are worthwhile. The legal horse racing sites available in California offer no-deposit bonuses, risk-free betting, and loyalty programs, just like the traditional sportsbook.

The bets you can place at these horse racing sites are the same as if you visited the track itself. That means you can win small amounts on micro-bets as well as enormous payouts on long-shot bets like the pick-six bet.

Online Horse Racing Bets In CA

The only traditional online betting that’s legal online in California is horse racing. You can bet on local, national, and international tracks, from local races in San Diego to races held on the other side of the world.

However, many betting websites that take horse racing bets from folks in CA are illegal and unlicensed, so it’s important to be sure you’re depositing at a legal choice.

It also might be worthwhile to note that horse racing could be nearing its finish line as a practice in California. The activist outcry against what many dub animal cruelty, particularly in a famously progressive state, could make horse racing illegal before the state legalizes online sportsbooks and casinos.

Still, even if horse racing goes the way of greyhound racing and is outlawed in CA, betting on it online will almost certainly remain legal.

Is Daily Fantasy Sports Legal In California?

Yes. Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) is legal in most states because their operators convinced legislators that DFS is skill-based. So, while almost all states have outlawed online casinos, online sportsbooks, and poker sites, DFS is only unavailable in about ten states.

In every other state as well as Washington DC, you can legally play DFS at DraftKings, FanDuel, and other operators.

If you’re wondering how sports betting isn’t skill-based but DFS is, that’s a hotly debated topic. If you’re wondering how DFS is more skill-based than poker, no one has a good answer for you. It’s a total mystery.

See our guide to How To Play Daily Fantasy Sports In California.

A Very Brief And Somewhat Disappointing History Of Online Gambling In California

Interestingly, gambling is one of the few bipartisan issues in the United States. Republican, Democrat, and Independent politicians can be for or against legalization, political party notwithstanding. This is important to mention because online gambling legislation is a political issue, and California is a historically left-leaning state.

Since states across the country began legalizing online casinos and online sportsbooks, California has been slow to follow. But this isn’t for a lack of demand; rather, it’s a matter of political will. Passing new legislation requires cutting through a mountain of red tape. And the recent push toward legalized online poker in 2020 was stymied by COVID-19.

Effect Of The Wire Act

For decades, the government used the Federal Wire Act of 1961 to restrict all forms of online gambling at the federal level. In September 2011, the US Department of Justice under the Obama administration declared that the Act only applied to sports betting.

In 2018, the Trump Justice Department reversed its course. It retracted the 2011 DOJ opinion and declared the Wire Act applied to all forms of online betting. The Fifth Court of Appeals then said the Wire Act only applies to sports betting. Then the Department of Justice filed an intention to appeal that decision. And if you’re confused, welcome to the club.

And that’s where we are at the federal level.

Basically, the history of California’s online gambling is yet to be written. Online poker seems to be the most likely legalization in the near future. And the growing demand for legal online sportsbooks will likely reach a fever pitch across the country, California included.

The Legality Of California’s Brick-And-Mortar Gambling

The most liberal aspect of legal gambling in California compared to other states is the cardroom. These land-based establishments allow poker, blackjack, pai gow, and baccarat but do not permit slots or table games.

Cardrooms also serve food, drinks, and host events, which gives them the feel of a casino. But if you like the digital games or roulette, you’ll have to travel one state over to Nevada. Further, since 1995, the state won’t allow additional cardrooms to open. If a California cardroom goes out of business, the state will not issue a  license for a new cardroom to open in its place.

Another option is to travel to Native American reservation casinos. In California alone, there are over 60 different tribal casinos that span the state.

You can also play the California State Lottery, which is available for purchase and cash-in only within the state borders. However, you can also play Mega Millions and PowerBall, which is available in 45 states, California included.

Quick Facts On CA Gambling

Does the state of California offer casinos?Cardrooms only
How many tribal casinos are in the state?65
How many horse tracks are in California?4
Can you play the lottery in California?Yes
What is the legal gambling age in California?18
Who regulates California gambling?California Gambling Control Commission

How Many Casinos Are Located In California?

Within the California state lines, there are two different types of casinos: tribal casinos and cardrooms. Currently, you can bet at more than 60 full-sized tribal casinos and approximately 90 state-licensed cardrooms. These establishments vary in size dramatically, especially when you compare small cardrooms to enormous casino resorts.

Unlike cardrooms, tribal casinos host every type of casino game. This includes slots, video poker, roulette, and craps. That’s on top of the blackjack and poker the cardrooms offer.

How Has The California Casino Industry Grown?

California’s casino industry took off after the ratification of the Tribal-State Gaming Compacts in 1999. Since then, dozens of casinos opened across the state on reservation land.

Because no new cardrooms can open as of 1995, the only way a new casino can open is if it’s tribal-run or the state passes new legislation. That means, for now, the California casino industry has, by all indications, plateaued. This situation appears to be fluid, though. Currently, the moratorium on new cardroom licenses expires in 2023.

Who Owns California Casinos?

Right now, 61 Native American tribes own all the casinos located within California state lines. The names of the casinos normally do not relate to the name of the tribe.

As for the cardrooms, the ownership is even more varied, but they’re often named after the location. For example, Commerce Casino is located in Commerce, CA, while the Napa Valley Casino is located in Napa.

California Online Gambling Options And Restrictions

Here’s a helpful breakdown of what is and isn’t legal in terms of betting online in CA:

Type Of Betting SiteLegality In The State Of California
Sweepstakes casinosLEGAL
Sweepstakes pokerLEGAL
Online horse race bettingLEGAL
Daily Fantasy SportsLEGAL
Online CasinosIllegal
Online sports bettingIllegal (aside from Daily Fantasy Sports)
Online pokerIllegal
Online LotteryIllegal (except for special state-sanctioned circumstances)
Online BingoFree-play only. No real-money games allowed.

Learn More About California Gambling Laws

California Online Gambling FAQs

Is there an age restriction for sweepstakes sites in California?

Yes. The legal age for playing at a sweepstakes casino in California is 18 and older.

In general, you have to be at least 18 to gamble in California. For example, it’s perfectly legal for an 18-year-old to buy a lottery ticket. However, many California casinos enforce a gambling age of 21 and up. All card rooms are also 21 and older.

Is online gambling in California safe?

No. Not unless you’re betting on horse racing, playing a sweepstakes casino or poker site or going for a second chance through the CA Lottery app. Otherwise, you’re gambling at an illegal betting site.

While it’s not illegal to gamble at an offshore casino, you won’t have any recourse if you’re ripped off. Many Californians still choose to bet at unlicensed sites and receive their winnings without issue. But is it safe? Strictly speaking, it is not.

How do US online casinos know that I’m in California?

In order to ensure the user base is in compliance with local regulations, online sportsbooks and casinos require members to let them know their location. Otherwise, there’s no way of knowing whether the person is inside the state – or even within the country.

Allowing bets from people located outside of the specific state is illegal. Even those who legally reside in states where online casinos or sportsbooks are legal cannot bet if they’re outside of state lines.

Can I be a California resident but play at Nevada online casinos?

Yes. The second you cross the border into Nevada, you can play at any of their licensed betting websites. Many who live close to the border can feasibly drive over state lines, place their sports bets, drive home, then drive back into the state to collect their winnings.

Can CA residents bet online in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, etc.?

Yes. State residency does not matter. All that matters is that you’re located within the state lines. That means you don’t even need to be a United States citizen to legally bet at licensed online casinos. This applies to online casinos in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and other states.

Do I have to pay California state taxes on casino winnings?

Yes. California’s standard income tax applies to any gambling winnings. The only exception is the CA Lottery, wherein the state automatically withholds the 24% tax (30% for non-US citizens or legal residents) if the winnings exceed $600.

So, if you’re a US citizen and win $1,000 on the CA Lottery, you’d receive $760. You would not have to pay any additional taxes.

Do I have to pay federal taxes on casino winnings?

If your net winnings for the year exceeds $5,000, then your gambling winnings are subjected to a flat tax rate of 25%.

It’s important to note that “net winnings” means your winnings subtracted by your losses. If you won $10,000 but lost $5,0001, you would not have to pay federal taxes for gambling.

About the Author

Mike Epifani

Mike Epifani (shown here at Caesar's Palace Las Vegas) is a highly experienced online gambling writer who specializes in online casinos and sports betting sites. From the nuances of bonus offers to winning strategies and beyond, his insights have helped countless remote bettors keep more of their money while having fun and staying safe.