California online gambling bills have been fraught with infighting and gridlock, so the online gambling sector in California remains unregulated. If residents want to play for real money at online casinos, sportsbooks, or poker sites, they must play at offshore online gambling sites. That is not a bad thing, because trusted operators like MyBookie, Big Spin Casino, and XBet accept play from Californians.
In the space below, we take a look at California’s online gambling laws and how they affect individuals in the Golden State. We give a timeline of California’s online gambling legislation, showing how the state got to where it is today. Finally, we provide recommendations on the best online casinos and sportsbooks for California real money gamblers.
California Gambling Laws at a Glance
- Legal Gambling: Land-Based Casino (domestic), Online/Mobile Casino (offshore)
- Minimum Gambling Age in California: 21 (domestic), 18 (through offshore sites)
- Retail Sports Betting in Person: No
- Online Casinos: Offshore
- Online Poker Sites: Offshore
- Online Sportsbooks: Offshore
- Live/In-Play Betting: Offshore
- College Sports Betting: Offshore
- Horse Racing: Domestic and offshore
- Estimated Sports Betting Revenue: To Be Determined
- Licensed Sports Betting Operators: None
- Online Gambling Licensing Fee: To Be Determined
- Tax Rate: To Be Determined
- Tax Funded: To Be Determined
Timeline: California Online Gambling Law History
- February 2010: Roderick Wright Proposes California’s First Online Poker Bill: In February 2010, California Senator Roderick Wright introduced Senate Bill 1485, aiming to legalize online poker in California. This was before the US Department of Justice changed its opinion on the legality of online poker, so it had little chance to pass. Still, Sen. Wright showed he had an intuition about the future of online poker in America.
- January 2012: Roderick Wright Proposes Second Online Poker Bill: Continuing his efforts, Senator Wright sponsored a second version of SB 1485, receiving support from the California Online Poker Association (COPA).
- February 2013: Roderick Wright Proposes Third Online Poker Bill: Senator Wright reintroduced SB 1485 to the legislature in February 2013, but COPA had split into two factions by this time. The Morongo Tribe had signed an exclusive deal with PokerStars, giving them an edge in the future California online poker industry. The Pechanga Tribe opposed PokerStars’ inclusion in California online poker, claiming they should be banned due to a “bad actor” status.
- February 2013: Lou Correa Introduces His Own Online Poker Bill: In the same month, California State Senator Lou Correa sponsored Senate Bill 678, which received backing from the Morongo Tribe and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.
- March 2014: Reggie Jones-Sawyer Introduces AB 2291: Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer presented the California Online Poker Bill 2014, also known as AB2291.
- August 2014: Lou Correa Introduces Modified Online Poker Bill: Attempting to bridge the gap between the Morongo and Pechanga factions, Senator Lou Correa sponsored Senate Bill 1366 in August 2014.
- September 2014: Roderick Wright Resigns from Office: Roderick Wright resigned from office in September 2014 due to an ethics scandal, resulting in California losing a prominent advocate for online poker.
- February 2015: Lou Correa Proposes 2015 Online Poker Bill: Sen. Lou Correa reintroduced SB 1366 in February 2015, but the bill struggled to gain traction.
- March 2015: Reggie Jones-Sawyer Reintroduces AB 2291: California Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer sponsored the California Online Poker Bill 2017, a reintroduction of AB 2291, but it failed to gain approval.
- February 2016: Reggie Jones-Sawyer Proposes AB 167: Jones-Sawyer backed a modified online poker bill, but tribal politics once again hindered his plan.
- December 2016: Mike Gatto Proposes Assembly Bill 9: California Assemblyman Mike Gatto introduced his own online poker bill, Assembly Bill 9, in December 2016. However, the bill was unsuccessful upon its introduction.
- February 2017: Reggie Jones-Sawyer Proposes Internet Poker Protection Act: Reggie Jones-Sawyer supported the Internet Poker Protection Act of 2017. When the bill lost momentum in August 2017, Jones-Sawyer suggested a cooling-off period in 2018 and 2019, proposing the possibility of a new California iPoker bill in 2020.
- May 2018: US Supreme Court Repeals PASPA: The US Supreme Court repealed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which had governed US federal sports betting laws for 25 years. Though this did not directly affect US gambling laws, it opened the door for states to license online and mobile sports betting inside their state lines. With a lucrative new form of gambling available, some hoped sports betting could be added to online poker to break the legal logjam over iPoker.
- April 2020: Covid Shuts Down California Casinos: When California land-based casinos shut down during the Covid era, the pandemic seems to have shut down all talk of California online poker.
- November 2022: Propositions 26 and 27 Defeated: California’s Native American gaming tribes supported two bills to legalize sports betting. Proposition 26 would have legalized retail sports betting but lost 70% to 30%. Proposition 27 would have legalized online and mobile sports betting but lost 83% to 17%.
- 2023 and Beyond: As for 2023, Reggie Jones-Sawyer’s two-year cooling-off period has now stretched into a 5-year lull in the introduction of online poker bills.
What is a Bad Actor in California Online Poker Debates?
According to the Pechanga faction and its lawyers, a “bad actor” is a poker company that acted in bad faith in the years when the federal government’s stance on UIGEA included a ban on online poker. Between January 2007 and April 2011, some poker sites accepted real money play from US card players. They did so knowing the US considered online poker a banned activity, thus flouting US federal law.
Under a bad actor clause, any poker site which acted in bad faith during the UIGEA ban should be banned from California online poker. Alternatively, those companies should be suspended for a certain number of years and pay an 8-figure fine before entering as a licensed California online poker site. PokerStars was the last active poker company that matched that definition, so the California bad actor clause in the proposed legislation was seen as a ban on PokerStars.
Because the two factions could never agree on the bad actor provision, every attempt to legalize online poker in California failed.
The Best California Online Casino Sites List 2023
|California Online Casino||Best Feature|
|MyBookie Casino||Best Combination Online Casino and Sportsbook|
|Big Spin Casino||The Best for Online Casino Table Games and Live Dealer Games|
|XBet Casino||Solid Combination of Casino Games, Sports Bets, and Live Casino Games|
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