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Online poker is a popular activity throughout the country. Find out whether online poker is illegal to play in California.

Is It Illegal to Play Online Poker in California

California, one of the most popular states in the US, is the home to many poker players. You can find dozens of CA poker rooms and poker tables in tribal casinos across the Golden State, where some of the best tournaments have taken place.

At Online Poker America, poker veteran and senior editor Adam Mason has an interesting article about online poker California laws. Generally speaking, only tribal casinos, bingo facilities, card rooms, and horse race wagering are permitted in the state. Unfortunately, any mention of legalizing California online poker sites and tapping into that vast profit potential has been met with resistance from the lawmakers.

Regardless of the legal impediments, Californians do have a way of enjoying poker games without any fears of facing legal persecution. Namely, there are sweepstakes poker sites, such as Global Poker, which allows you to redeem the $weeps Cash for real money prizes.

In addition to these sweepstakes sites, players can also rely on offshore real-money poker sites. However, will that mean you’ll be breaking the law? Will there be legal persecution if you get caught?

Stay with us as we explore the gambling laws in the Golden State and their implications for poker players. 

Poker in California — Legal Framework 

California has had a long history of anti-gambling laws. First of all, Article IV of the California Constitution prohibits all types of gambling except the ones in tribal casinos and registered facilities offering bingo, lottery, and horse parimutuel wagering. Even the California Penal Code, chapter 10, section 330, which was first enacted in 1872, forbids all casino and house-banked games.

However, over the years, the gambling outlook has changed. In 1997, the Gambling Control Act aimed to deliver a comprehensive scheme for statewide regulation of gambling. As a result, California Gambling Control Commission was established, and its duty has been to oversee card games across the state. In 2000, the voters amended the Constitution and allowed Class III (casino-type) gaming on Indian land.

But, ever since the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act took over on a federal level, tribal casinos and card rooms haven’t been allowed to launch their websites. This act also prohibits all businesses from processing online payments related to gambling.

Some California lawmakers have been trying to legalize online poker over the years. One of the more notable attempts was made by  Darrell Steinberg and Roderick Wright in 2013 with their SB 1463 bill called the Authorization and Regulation of Internet Poker and Consumer Protection Act of 2013. Unfortunately, they did not get enough support.

In 2015, a strong push was made by Adam Gray and his bill dubbed AB 431, which would ultimately allow the existing tribal casinos and CA poker rooms to apply for an operator’s license. Even though the bill was passed by the Governmental Organization Committee, no progress has been made due to some issues with provisions and taxation. 

Are Offshore California Online Poker Sites Legal? 

In terms of legality, offshore betting sites are in a gray area. Technically speaking, participating in any kind of percentage or banking game is considered a misdemeanor. However, there is no law in California saying that players can’t access these sites. What’s even more important is that there is no current precedent to punish the players for doing so, so there is no need to fear any legal persecution.

In addition, these sites are not registered in California and therefore do not need to abide by the laws that apply there, to begin with. This means Californian players should be able to register their accounts freely and play numerous poker games offered. 

Final Thoughts 

The legislation surrounding poker in California can be downright confusing at times. While land-based versions are allowed, online poker is still prohibited. That is why there are no state-licensed operators in California, and there’s no saying if there will be any in the future.

In the meantime, players will have to try their luck on the offshore poker sites that accept Californians. Luckily, these sites are not under the jurisdiction of the California State Law and can accept players from the Golden State.

Moreover, players can access them freely without worrying about breaking the law since playing on those sites is not prohibited per se. Until state-licensed sites emerge, these offshore poker rooms are the best choice for Californians.  

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