How Do California’s Gambling Laws Differ to Other US states?

California's Gambling Laws

States have a lot of say over the rules and regulations which apply to industries that operate within their borders, and this is particularly apparent when it comes to gambling in the US.

While some parts of the country have embraced legal gambling activities with open arms, others have been more reticent about jumping on this particular bandwagon.

So where does California stand with regards to gambling legislation at the moment, and what does this mean for residents?

Bricks and mortar gambling

Today, there are in excess of 70 casinos established across California. This was not always the case, as it took a change of law in the year 2000 for bricks and mortar gambling venues to be given the go-ahead, and even then only on tribal reserves.

Before you rush to visit them, read up on the California legal gambling age for casinos and sports betting explained here. In most cases you can play casino games as long as you are 18 years or older, although there are exceptions to keep in mind. Likewise, lots of casino operators have an in-house rule of only catering to players who are over 21, which is more to do with the state’s drinking laws than its gambling legislation.

In comparison with other states, California’s 18+ rule for land-based casinos is actually quite lenient. Head almost anywhere else where casinos are allowed, from Arkansas to Wisconsin and beyond, and you will find that 21 is the typical state-mandated minimum age.

A handful of other states do allow 18, 19 and 20 year olds to visit casinos, with South Carolina and Rhode Island both falling into this category, but they are in the minority. And in plenty of places all forms of gambling are entirely illegal; we’re looking at you, Utah.

Sports betting

California’s sports betting laws are somewhat stricter in contrast with a few other regions of the US. Specifically, it is still illegal to wager on sporting events anywhere other than at the aforementioned licensed tribal casinos. This means you need to visit in person if you want to place a bet, and of course the same minimum age requirements apply here.

There is something of a grey area when it comes to fantasy sports leagues, which are not limited to in-person play, and can be accessed legitimately online. Likewise, while online sports betting services remain explicitly illegal in California, proposals to change this are still working their way through at the moment, and may be successfully passed in the near future.

Far fewer states do allow sports betting in any form, especially online. New Jersey is the most noteworthy state to regulate and promote online sportsbook sites, and it has been joined by the likes of Michigan and Pennsylvania recently. This was all made possible thanks to a 2018 supreme court ruling, and so there are now mechanisms in place for California to follow suit with legalization, even if the timeline for this remains unclear.

Online gambling

As has already been touched upon, online sports betting is outlawed in California, and the same goes for essentially all forms of web-based casino experience.

Leading the way in this regard are Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, where residents and visitors can play online from PCs, laptops and the latest smartphones. There is hope for California to move with the times and adopt legal online slots, roulette, poker, blackjack and all the other games you might want to play. But again, it remains tricky to predict exactly when this part of the gambling industry might be brought into the light.

What is apparent is that if California did legalize online gambling, it would be creating a huge market for operators to tap into. Revenues in places like Michigan where online wagering has recently been legalized have quickly climbed into the hundreds of millions of dollars monthly, and the sheer scope of California’s population would easily eclipse this.

Of course plenty of Californians are already playing at online casinos; it is just that without state-mandated sites to use, they are forced to turn to operators that host their gambling services elsewhere. This leaves them in a more vulnerable position from a security perspective, and also means that the state is missing out on tax dollars.


When it comes to legal gambling, California is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, its support for land-based casinos has been solid for the past decade, but on the other its hesitance to legalize online casinos makes it look a little slow to adapt.

The wheels of the law may turn at a snail’s pace in some instances, but if there is enough demand for online gambling then ideally California’s legislators will listen.

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