California has been discussing legalizing one form of online gambling or another for the past decade. So far, it has gotten nowhere in these discussions.
Meanwhile, many other states have legalized online casinos, poker, and/or sports betting. Most of the same states also began talking about the matter well after California.
The Golden State has stalled on passing internet gambling legislation when compared to many other states. With that said, it’s a wonder if they’ll ever legalize the matter.
I’m going to discuss where California is currently at regarding online gambling. I’ll also give a prediction on when the state might finally approve legislation.
What’s the Current Status of California Online Gambling?
California’s gaming laws neither criminalize nor legalize online gambling. The Golden State is currently in a gray area regarding mobile gambling.
CA laws do mention that one could be guilty of a misdemeanor if they’re caught with “a machine, contrivance, appliance or mechanical device, upon the result of action of which money or other valuable thing is staked or hazarded.”
This legal mumbo jumbo could potentially apply to online gambling if lawmakers felt so inclined. However, California has never taken legal action against an online gambler nor operator to date.
If somebody was caught gambling illegally, they wouldn’t face much of a punishment. The first two convictions for illegal gaming only result in a $50 fine.
Are Online Casinos and Betting Sites Legal in California?
The Golden State does not currently have a regulated mobile gambling market. Nevertheless, many offshore online casinos, poker sites, and sportsbooks serve Californians.
These sites are located in different countries, such as Antigua, Belize, and Costa Rica. They feel comfortable operating in California because this state’s laws don’t explicitly ban online gambling.
Of course, these operators aren’t necessarily legal either. They would need to wait for regulated CA internet gambling then apply for licensing to be completely legal.
Given that California appears nowhere close to doing this, though, unlicensed gambling sites will continue serving the state into the foreseeable future.
Why Isn’t Online Gambling Already Legal in CA?
The California gaming market has a few major players, including tribal casinos, card rooms, and horse tracks. So far, these sides can’t agree on an internet gambling bill.
The state has many compacts with different Native American tribes. The tribes are the only entities that can currently offer traditional casino gaming.
As a result, these tribes have a lot of sway in the market. They pretty much have to agree on any online gambling bill that gets passed.
Of course, the public can vote on gambling-based referendums. The state legislature could then vote on whether or not to approve any passing referendum.
Meanwhile, the tracks and card rooms don’t want to be left out of any such legislation. They too have a say in the matter because they also bring revenue in for the state.
When Will California Online Gambling Become Legal?
The Golden State will have regulated internet gambling at some point in the future. However, this point is difficult to predict.
The tribes show no signs of budging on a requested mobile gambling monopoly. They don’t want to agree to something that could hurt their lucrative land-based casino business.
In 2020, an iGambling bill (SCA 6) went down in flames. It suffered from the same problems described above, where it didn’t receive support from all sides. Furthermore, the pandemic took attention away from any sort of gambling expansion.
The tribes have since put together a proposal for the November 2022 ballots. However, this bill focuses on land-based sportsbooks and cuts out card clubs.
The card rooms, meanwhile, are waging a campaign called “No on the Gambling Power Grab” to stop the tribes’ initiative.
One can only guess on when a bill comes along that pleases the tribes, card rooms, and horse tracks. My best estimation is that California will have regulated internet gambling by between 2030 and 2035.
What Options Do Californians Have in the Meantime?
Legal mobile gambling might not be coming any time soon. Nevertheless, Californians can still enjoy the following options.
Offshore Online Casinos
As mentioned before, offshore gambling isn’t necessarily legal in California. Regardless, it still exists to a great degree.
Offshore casinos aren’t sanctioned by the California Gambling Control Commission. They do, however, need to serve players well if they’re to draw repeat business. This is why Bovada, Super Slots, and many other online casinos boast a favorable reputation.
Offshore Betting Sites
Real Money sports betting was a big motivator behind the 2020 online gambling proposal. Even with all sides interested in regulating betting, this legislation still didn’t get anywhere.
Offshore sportsbooks remain the only online betting options. Many online sportsbooks earn sizable revenue from serving Californians.
Just like the casinos covered above, these bookmakers aren’t regulated in the Golden State. Nevertheless, they do need to provide good service to stay relevant.
Offshore Online Poker
Online poker is the main reason why California began discussing internet gambling so early. These talks started in 2007, when internet poker was still hot.
Of course, online poker is long past its boom days. However, it could be included in future mobile gambling legislation.
For now, though, offshore sites are the only options. Californians have access to dozens of online poker sites.
Land-Based Casinos and Poker Rooms
The Golden State may be getting left behind in online gambling, but it still features a thriving land-based gaming market. California is home to countless brick-and-mortar casinos, including some of the world’s largest gaming resorts.
Pechanga Resort (Temecula), for example, features over 5,000 slot machines and 160 table games. San Manuel (San Bernardino) also offers over 5,000 slots along with 130 tables.
This state has card rooms and horse tracks as well. The card rooms differ from the casinos because they can only offer unbanked games.
The latter means that the clubs can’t offer casino classics like blackjack and roulette. They can only take rake from various card games.
Will You Be Safe at Offshore Gambling Sites?
California politicians often tout safety as a reason for legalizing internet gambling. After all, regulated gaming would allow the state’s Gambling Control Commission to oversee the market.
With that said, you might feel worried about playing at offshore poker, casino, and betting sites. The truth, though, is that you can stay safe with these types of sites, too. The key involves knowing how to choose reputable operators.
You certainly want to avoid any operator that has had scandals in its past. Likewise, you want to forget about any site that can’t make timely payouts.
Slow payouts are an indication of potential insolvency. Going further, struggling operators sometimes dip into customers’ funds to stay afloat.
Ultimately, regulated CA gambling operators would provide the most safety. You can, however, find plenty of quality offshore operators in the meantime.
You just need to put a little time into reading reviews before picking an online casino, poker room, and/or sportsbook.
Our Prediction About California Gambling
California will probably legalize internet gambling someday. The way things are going, though, this someday might not be until 2035 or later.
The Golden State has various compacts with tribes that it must honor. It can’t just unilaterally legalize online gambling without the tribes’ input.
The latter, meanwhile, want to keep the status quo. They’re fine if mobile gambling never gets legalized so long as they control land-based casino gaming.
Offshore sites will likely remain the only viable online gambling options for years to come. After all, California doesn’t appear close to passing legislation any time soon.