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:
- Sweepstakes casinos for cash prizes
- Sweepstakes poker for cash prizes
- Online horse race betting
- Daily fantasy sports (DFS)
Plus, the California Lottery often runs special “second chance” promotions on scratchers that you can participate in online. 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.
What Sweepstakes Products Can I Play In California?
The best sweepstakes casino in California is Funzpoints Casino. The site offers Premium credits to play for cash prizes as well as Standard credits to play for fun and entries into a daily prize drawing. Funzpoints offers more than three dozens slots for Premium play as well as a handful for standard play.
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Online Poker Sites
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 Global Poker, you purchase Gold Coins (GC) to play at FendOff. Some of the GC packages include Sweeps (SW). Once you win at least SW 50, you can redeem the credits for a cash prize.
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 packages of the website’s currency, which include Standard credits and Premium credits. Standard credits are mostly for fun play, but Funzpoints also has Standard mode earning players entries into daily prize drawings.
Here’s a helpful table based on buying Funzpoints coin packages:
|Purchase Price||Standard Funzpoints||Premium Funzpoints||With Funzpoints Bonus Code|
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Can You Win Real Money At Sweepstakes Casinos And Poker Sites From California?
Players in California can win cash prizes at sweepstakes casinos and poker sites. Premium credits that you receive for free or with a purchase are not redeemable. But the Premium credits you win are considered Cashable Funzpoints, which can be redeemed for a cash prize that’s transferred directly to your bank account.
At Funzpoints, the minimum cash prize is $20. Most other sweepstakes sites have a $50 to $100 minimum, which makes Funzpoints a more approachable option.
However, you can win far more than 2,000 Premium Funzpoints (the minimum for prize redemption). Some of the jackpots can net over 100,000 Funzpoints, which would be a massive cash prize.
What Kinds Of Bonuses Do Sweepstakes Casinos And Poker Sites Offer To Players In California?
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 Standard credits as well as Premium credits.
Daily Login Bonuses
Much like the initial signup bonus, you can receive coins just for logging in at some sweepstakes casino sites, including Premium credits.
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.
|Game||Lowest Stakes||Highest Stakes|
|Ring Games (small blind/big blind)||SC 0.02/SC 0.04||SC 10/SC 20|
|Tournament (tickets)||SC 0.11||SC 33|
|Sit ‘n’ Go (entry fee/jackpot)||SC 0.05/SC 0.5||SC 18/SC 200
|Jackpot Sit ‘n’ Go (entries/jackpot)||SC 0.5/up to SC 5,000||SC 20/ up to SC 200,000|
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 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?
The kinds of slots you can play run the gamut. At social casinos, you can play three-reel classics as well as five-reel 3D slots with progressive jackpots, plus scratchers, keno, and other slots-adjacent games.
Some of the most popular slots at Funzpoints include:
- Barnyard Frenzy
- Gold Rush Pete
- Chillin’ While Grillin’
- Chase Wild Game Hunter
- Paintball Keno
Sweepstakes Poker Sites: How Hard Are The Games?
Sweepstakes poker sites have a reputation across the online poker community for 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 real-money sites In neighboring Nevada, which has access to World Series of Poker online (WSOP.com). And, because cardrooms are legal in California (versus casinos, which are limited to Native American tribal land), most of the best play in-person.
So, at the end of the day, Global Poker players can expect a wide range of experience and skill levels, from newbies to card sharks.
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 Sweeps Coins (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 for cashable 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. It’s a great option for practicing your skills too before playing with SC.
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 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 Site||Legality In The State Of California|
|Online horse race betting||LEGAL|
|Daily Fantasy Sports||LEGAL|
|Online sports betting||Illegal (aside from Daily Fantasy Sports)|
|Online Lottery||Illegal (except for special state-sanctioned circumstances)|
|Online Bingo||Free-play only. No real-money games allowed.|
Learn More About California Gambling Laws
- Gambling Law, Regulations, And Resource Information, 2021 Edition
- Complete list of all California tribal casinos from 500Nations
- Complete list of all licensed cardrooms in the state of California
- US News & World Report’s Top 5 Best Casino Hotels in CA
California Online Gambling FAQs
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.