Why Isn’t Craps Legal in California?

California State Flag on Left With a Red Cross Over a Craps Table on Right

California features one of the world’s biggest casino gaming industries. Its 76 tribal casinos generate $9 billion in annual gaming revenue. This total rivals next-door Nevada ($12b), which is world-famous for gambling thanks to Las Vegas and Reno.

That said, California offers many gaming opportunities. The Golden State provides tens of thousands of slots along with other games.

However, craps is one common American favorite that isn’t found in California. As I’ll cover later, this state does offer a strange variation of craps.

Again, though, you won’t be able to enjoy the standard version. I’m going to discuss why this is the case along with how “California Craps” works.

California’s Strange Gambling Laws Prohibit Craps

The Golden State has a long history with gambling. During the Gold Rush in the mid-1800s, many gambling houses sprung up.

Not surprisingly, California became one of the quicker states to embrace casinos. In 2000, its voters approved a bill to allow casino gaming on tribal reservations.

However, Proposition 1A didn’t come without some odd concessions. Most notably, California tribal casinos aren’t allowed to offer any game that’s decided by a wheel (roulette) or dice (craps).

The latter is most important to this discussion because it rules out traditional craps. After all, dice rolls decide results on the craps table.

As you’ll see in the next section, casinos have found a solution to this problem. Even still, you won’t see gamblers rolling dice in California’s casinos.

California Craps Was Developed as a Workaround

Craps is illegal in the Golden State in its regular form. California Craps, on the other hand, is perfectly legal thanks to a 2004 decision.

Reservations went to the state government in the early 2000s with a proposal to offer roulette-like and craps-like games. The state’s gambling commission approved the games for play in tribal casinos.

As for California Craps, it uses two sets of six cards in place of dice. Each set of cards, which include an ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, are meant to simulate the six-sided dice.

The sets of six cards are then placed in two separate automatic shufflers. Each shuffler will spit out a card, which essentially determines the “dice combinations.” If a 2 and 3 come out of the shufflers, then a 5 has been rolled.

Cards are returned to the shufflers once they’ve been dealt/rolled. Assuming a point is established, then the cards keep getting returned until all bets are decided.

Beyond the inclusion of cards, rather than dice, this game is mostly similar to regular craps. It features all of the basic bets, such as pass line, don’t pass line, come, don’t come, Place 6, Place 8, etc.

California Craps Game

Depending upon where you’re playing in California, a game can offer unique side bets that aren’t available in the traditional version.

At the Pala Casino, for example, you can place a “Super Field” bet. This wager pays 500-to-1 if both cards are either 1-1 or 6-6. The probability of the cards turning up 1-1 or 6-6 is only 0.154%, which leads to a 22.7% house edge.

Pauma Casino uses a 73-card deck for this game, which includes a joker. You can place a side bet that the first drawn card will be a joker.

If this occurrence happens, you’ll win 60:1 on your bet. The probability of the first card being a joker is 1.39%, which leads to a 16.67% house advantage.

Why Is California Craps Legal While Traditional Craps Isn’t?

The key reason why craps is illegal in California is due to the dice rule. Proposition 1A is something of a compromise between gaming advocates and conservatives.

It bans any casino game that uses dice or a wheel. The ban on dice-based gambling essentially outlaws craps in the state.

However, tribal casinos developed a smart workaround by using cards instead of dice to determine results. They then took this proposal to gaming regulators, who approved California Craps and Roulette. Given that CA craps doesn’t use dice, it’s perfectly legal.

Key Differences between California and Regular Craps

California and standard craps have some similarities, including the same bet types, odds, and payouts. As seen below, though, they differ in a few big areas.

The California Version Uses Cards Instead of Dice

Again, California bans the use of dice in casinos. Technically speaking, this ban should eliminate the possibility of craps.

Tribal casinos cleverly found a way to circumvent this law and gain the commission’s approval, though, with California Craps.

CA craps substitutes cards for dice. The standard version of this game places two sets of six cards into automatic shufflers. These card sets replicate the results of six-sided dice.

Automatic Shuffler Substitutes for a Roll

A dealer could potentially just pick a card from each set of six. However, most California casinos like using an automatic shuffler instead.

The shufflers ensure complete randomness in every roll. They’re perfect for simulating exactly how random dice rolls are.

Card Shuffler

When playing traditional craps, you must attempt to hit the backstop when rolling. Given that the backstop is 10-14 feet away, you can’t roll with any degree of skill. Instead, each roll is a completely random occurrence.

Unique Bets

Various casinos around California have included unique side bets in their craps games. As discussed before, Pala has a Super Field wager that pays 500-to-1 when successful.

Pauma features a slightly different setup that requires 73 cards and a joker. You can win 60-to-1 if the joker is drawn first in a round.

Of course, you should be careful with these side bets. Super Field and the joker bets carry 22.7% and 16.67% house edges, respectively.

Is It Worth Playing Craps in This State?

You might try California Craps for something different from the norm. Perhaps you’ve played the traditional version extensively in other casinos and want something new.

In this case, CA craps is a great way to shake things up. You’ll be playing with similar rules but a more-unique setup.

Overhead View of a Busy Craps Table

You may also appreciate the interesting side bets that come with some California Craps games. With side wagers that pay up to 500-to-1, you could hit a windfall through one of these bets.

Online Craps Is Widely Available in the Golden State

If the idea of California Craps doesn’t appeal to you, then you might consider the online version. Online craps is widely available throughout the state thanks to internet casinos.

These casinos give you the opportunity to enjoy this game from your smartphone or computer. You’ll have no shortage of online casinos to choose from in the state.

To get started, you simply need to find a relevant gaming site and complete registration. Afterward, you can either play free craps or make a deposit.

The latter allows you to enjoy real-money craps games. You can play for as little as a dollar or stakes as high as $500.

Will You Get Arrested for Playing Online Craps in California?

The one major problem with playing at California-facing online casinos is that they’re not licensed. After all, the Golden State doesn’t feature licensed online gaming.

Therefore, you’ll be dealing with offshore casinos. These gaming sites aren’t regulated by the California Gambling Control Commission. That said, you might wonder if you’re breaking the law and will be arrested when playing online craps in this state.

Live Dealer Craps Online by Evolution Gaming

The answer is almost assuredly no. Law enforcement has never arrested anybody for online gambling in the Golden State.

Furthermore, California doesn’t seem overly concerned with internet gambling. They haven’t taken a strong legal stance for or against the matter.

Our Thoughts on Craps in California

Craps might be illegal in California in its traditional form. Nevertheless, you can at least enjoy the card-based version when you’re in the state.

California craps relies on cards and automatic shufflers to remain legal. The downside is that you won’t get to roll dice. Provided you’re okay with this fact, then you might enjoy CA craps.

You can also easily access online casinos from within the Golden State. Online craps is a great option when you want to play the standard version without crossing state lines. It’s also really cheap to play with $1 stakes.