Why Can't We Play Online Casinos from California Yet (But Do Anyway)

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  • Thursday February 29, 2024
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Why Can't We Play Online Casinos from California Yet (But Do Anyway)

Aside from the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco is also widely considered progressive. As a gaming enthusiast, you would expect this progressive attitude to spread quickly to the gaming industry. Sadly, you would be wrong.

Online games are prevalent and lucrative activities across the globe. But in the U.S., there is a legal restriction on casinos, with only 7 States licensed to operate online casinos, and sadly, California is not one of them. What this means is that regardless of the high demand and potential benefits, people do not have access to online gambling and casino sites in the Golden State.

This article will illuminate why casinos are not legal in California, so take a seat, and we'll satisfy your curiosity.

The tribal compact and the Legal Gray Area

The main reason why online casinos are not legal in California is because of the existence of tribal compacts. Tribal compacts are agreements between the state and native American tribes that grant the native American tribes exclusive rights to operate in-person or land-based casinos on their reservations.

The tribe has a solid political and economic influence in the state and has opposed any expansion of online gambling that would threaten its monopoly.

Nevertheless, the laws do not explicitly prohibit online gambling either, as they primarily cover class III games like slot machines, table games, and poker. Class II games such as bingo and lottery are not subject to the compact operation; hence, it creates a gray area where some forms of online gambling can be considered legal.

The attempts and failure to regulate online gambling in California

Several attempts have been made to legalize and regulate California Online Gambling, especially online poker. Several bills have been introduced in the state legislature, but none have succeeded. The primary hindrance is the lack of consensus among the stakeholders, such as the tribes, the card rooms, the racetracks, and the online operators. With each group looking to protect its interests, a common framework that would satisfy everyone has yet to be reached.

A notable attempt was made in 2017 when Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer introduced AB 177 - the Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act. This was a move to establish a licensing and regulatory system for online poker operators with a 15% tax rate on total gaming revenue and a $12.5 million initial fee.

The bill also included the 'bad actor' clause, which would exclude any actor offering online poker at the federal level. Unfortunately, the bill faced considerable opposition from some tribes and cardrooms and did not advance beyond this committee stage. Another attempt was made more recently in November 2022 to sign the bill to legalize online gambling, leading to a bitter exchange of words between the tribes and the sportsbook operators and ultimately to its failure as both parties refused to reach a consensus.

The Offshore Option

Because online casinos are illegal in California, some players have had to resort to offshore sites accepting U.S. customers. Most gambling platforms are licensed and operate in foreign jurisdictions such as Costa Rica, Curacao, and Panama. They offer a variety of games, such as slots, blackjack, roulette, and poker.

They also accept diverse payment options, including cryptocurrencies.

Frequently Asked Questions

Going down the offshore route may be convenient and meet your online casino needs in California. However, playing with offshore sites comes with certain risks you must know. Firstly, you should know that offshore sites are not subject to any oversight or consumer protection from the state or federal authorities. This means that players have no legal resort in case of disputes, fraud, or nonpayment.

Bearing that in mind, studying and understanding the Factors you must consider while choosing an online casino on an offshore site is crucial.

Other risks involved are that offshore sites may not comply with anti-money laundering and responsible gambling issues and may have lower payouts, unfair games, or outdated software.

Frequently Asked Questions

> Is online gambling illegal in California?

Online gambling is not explicitly illegal in California, but it isn't legal either. As it stands, the only online betting authorized by the state is horse racing. Online gambling exists within a legal ambiguity where the laws and enforcement are unclear.

> What are the penalties for online gambling in California?

There are no specific penalties for online gambling in California as the activity is not clearly defined or prohibited by the law. However, players could still face legal consequences, such as tax evasion, money laundering, or UIGEA violations. We would advise caution as penalties could vary from fines to imprisonment, contingent on the seriousness of the offense.

> Can I play online casinos for free in California?

Yes, you can play online casino games for free in California if you do not wager or win real money. Many social casino sites offer free games for fun or entertainment purposes. These sites are legal and safe as they do not involve any actual money transactions or prizes.

> What are the best offshore casinos for Californians?

Many offshore casinos accept Californians. They are but not limited to:

• Bovada: Bovada is a top-rated and reputable offshore site with a sportsbook, a casino, and a loyalty program.

• Wild Casino: Stands out as one of the premier online casinos in the US, with a large selection of games, a generous welcome bonus, and fast payouts.

• TG: TG is the world's first telegram casino, which allows players to play anonymously and securely. The $TGC token powers TG casino and offers a 10 ETH bonus.

• Las Atlantis is a new and exciting offshore casino with a futuristic theme and over 1,000 games. Las Atlantis accepts cryptocurrencies and offers a substantial welcome bonus.


Online gambling is a complex and complicated issue in California. The state has not been able to legalize or regulate online casinos due to the opposition of the tribes and the lack of consensus among stakeholders.

As a result, some players choose to gamble at offshore sites, which offer more options and convenience. Until the state finds a way to address the online gambling demand and potential, Californians will have to weigh the pros and cons of playing at offshore casinos.