A Look at California’s Gambling Industry – Golden State Gambling

Golden State Written on Right Over Casino Chips and Cash with the California State Flag on Left

California probably isn’t at the top of your lists when considering casino destinations. Most gamblers want to travel to Las Vegas or the lavish casinos on the East Coast.

Yet, California has a thriving casino industry. One of the exciting aspects of traveling is the incredible adventures available.

The state has everything from snow skiing to surfing. Of course, our primary focus is on the casinos.

Many casino gamblers are unfamiliar with gambling in the Golden State. Today we’ll take a look at California’s gambling industry.

We’ll discover everything California’s casinos offer gamblers and why bettors keep their money in the state.

Where’s the Gold At?

Did you know that behind Nevada, California has more casinos than any other state?

That’s right; the Golden State has over 60 casinos in operation. Many of these casinos would be considered inconsequential by Vegas standards. Yet, they fit their areas and demographics perfectly.

The legal gambling age in CA is 18, but don’t book your flight yet, youngster. The casinos have a strict policy of 21 and older to enter.

California is also home to over 10 racetracks. That makes the Golden State one of the best in the nation for horse racing enthusiasts.

The California gambling industry has several things going its way. The wild thing is that gambling in the state hasn’t begun to realize its full potential.

The Legal Aspects of Gambling in California

You will only find tribal casinos in California. These casinos are all owned by the Native American tribes.

The arrangement is part of the compacts between indigenous people and the government. Both state and federal authorities recognize the sovereignty of the tribes.

That allows for well-regulated and legal gambling on their land. However, there are restrictions on the games allowed.

Lucky Lady Casino and Poker Card Room Sign, California State Flag

For example, games involving dice and spinning reels are strictly forbidden. That’s merely a concession on the casinos’ behalf, and they’ve found a workaround. I’ll cover the craps and roulette scene in California later.

The big score for the casinos is they aren’t required to release payback statistics on slots. That means players are forced to guess how much the casinos are taking off the top.

That’s unheard of in the casino industry and can’t be suitable for players.

The Lottery

The lottery scene in California is similar to what you’ll find in other large state lotteries. A mix of traditional drawing style games with a vast selection of scratch-off tickets.

Powerball and Mega Millions are popular games in the Golden State. Super Lotto Plus rounds out the games with smaller jackpots on average.

One hundred percent of the lottery proceeds go towards education. To date, the lottery has given over $39 billion to education in the state.

The lottery pays back almost $0.62 of every dollar spent on the games. That lands California in the middle of the best and worst states to play the lottery.

Roulette in California

Earlier I mentioned that spinning wheels are off the table for casinos in the Golden State. That should close the book on any roulette games.

However, casinos are cunning businesses, and they can always find an angle. Casinos have adopted a familiar casino staple to achieve a similar result to dice.

Roulette Table

Playing cards are used to mimic the numbers on a roulette wheel. Usually, the deck is culled down to 38 cards and coded to correspond with the numbers in roulette.

I’ve played California’s version of roulette, and I left the table feeling underwhelmed. It goes back to an old saying I have, “Just because you can gamble on something, it doesn’t mean you should.”

Craps in California

If roulette feels sterile, I can only describe craps as lackluster. The absence of dice and a shooter steals a lot of the thrill from craps.

Part of the allure of craps is cheering on the shooter and trying to beat the casino as a team. That element gets lost with a dealer flipping over two cards.

The math stays the same by hosting the game in this fashion, but the entertainment evaporates. If you’re casino gambling in California, you may avoid craps and roulette.

California Slot Machines

Slot machines account for the majority of casino revenue in the Golden State. That’s not any surprise, as it aligns with casino gambling across the United States.

There are over 75,300 electronic gaming machines in California. Nevada (163,000+) and Oklahoma (75,100), the only two states that can rival that number.

When you walk into a California casino, there’s no mistaking what the number one game is. The slot machines rule the casino floor.

That’s fine with the casino clientele I’ve bumped into during my travels through the state.

Column of Casino Slots

The concern I have with slot machines is that they come with a poor return to the player, and the game moves quickly.

However, there’s a graver aspect of slot machine gaming in California. The casinos don’t have to report their payback numbers.

That doesn’t give the casinos carte blanche only to give back what they deem appropriate. There are still guidelines in place to protect the consumer in any market.

Yet, it prevents gamblers from identifying the casinos with the best slots payout.

Blackjack Is a Favorite

Any casino worthwhile will pay special attention to live dealer blackjack. Most casinos in California will offer blackjack in some form.

Don’t expect to find the best table rules in the Golden State. What you will find are 6 to 5 payouts and other rules that benefit the house.

That’s because most players are focused solely on entertainment. It’s becoming harder for advantage gamblers to have a chance.

Casinos know that more of their guests expect to have fun than make money. That allows casinos to bend the house edge further in their favor.

When guests have an exceptional experience, the added cost from gambling is acceptable.

This trend isn’t unique to California. Casinos around the globe are shifting the rules to increase their profits.

The truth is that most players never notice the difference or are too lazy to research how it affects them. In other words, don’t hold your breath waiting for the casinos to change course.

The Sports Betting Market

In a state with over 60 casinos, you’d expect to find legalized sports betting. Yet, California is among the states that haven’t embraced sports betting.

The state’s tribal casino industry is shutting down proposals to open sportsbooks. Currently, the casinos have a monopoly on casino gambling.

If the casinos can’t control sports betting, they’d rather not see it at all. However, much like Florida, where the tribes have opposed sports betting, it’s only a matter of time.

View of a Sportsbook Betting Counter

Some experts believe legal sports betting could hit the Golden State by 2022. That may be pushing the issue, but legal sports betting will make its way to California.

Until then, gamblers will continue to hop across the border to Nevada for their fix.

Online Gambling in the Golden State

Several online casinos are operating in the state of California. These casinos offer players a convenient and safe way to gamble when they can’t get to the casino.

Online gambling is starting to gain traction, but many residents prefer actual casinos. There are some clear advantages to online casinos.

Convenience seems to be the number one reason players opt to gamble online. The sites make gambling more accessible by developing user-friendly mobile applications.

Still, many gamblers enjoy the entire casino experience. They want to be pampered in the spa, enjoy an exquisite steak dinner, and be fully enveloped by the casino.

For these gamblers, online casinos can’t replicate the real thing. Fortunately, the casino industry in California has enough business to go around.

Best Places to Play in California

There are dozens of excellent choices for gambling in California. Across the state, casinos range from posh to practical.

That makes room for every type of gambler to find a casino they love. I have a few favorites that check all of the boxes for a casino getaway. Here they are:

  • Pechanga Casino
  • Agua Caliente
  • Viejas Casino and Resort
  • Rolling Hills Casino

Each of these casinos perfectly matches value, luxury, and gaming. Wherever you decide to gamble in California, be sure to give these a chance to earn your business.

What Does All This Add Up To?

We’ve covered a lot of information looking at California’s gambling industry. That makes for an excellent casino gambling destination with something for everyone.

Casinos in California

You might need to make a concession or two when it comes to the games, but that’s a case-by-case basis. In the end, California’s casino business is booming.

If you want proof of that, look at Reno. The Biggest Little City in the World is being hit hard by California’s casino industry.

The town was once flush with casino patrons from northern California. Now, those gamblers are keeping their money closer to home and gambling in tribal casinos.

Our Final Thoughts on Gambling in California

California’s gambling industry doesn’t do things differently than others. The Golden State has followed a path to success laid out elsewhere.

The future of casino gaming in California will likely see looser rules for the casinos. That includes dice games and spinning wheels being added to the mix.

Sports betting is on the horizon and should be legal within a few years. So, the future of casinos in California is bright.