Gambling table with chips and roulette

CA Gabling Laws

California’s next door neighbor, Nevada, may be known for its gambling hot spots, but things are quite a bit different on this side of the border.

Getting caught participating in most forms of gambling in California will leave players in need of the services of a bail bondsman. The more people know about California’s gambling laws, the less likely they are to run out of luck.

Penal Code 330

California defines illegal gambling and the penalties for violating the law under Penal Code 330. These crimes are considered a misdemeanor. Accordingly, someone who is accused of a gambling offense in California may be looking at performing community service as well as spending as many as six months in county jail. Fines of between $100 and $1,000 may also be levied. Paying for bail and a criminal defense attorney will only add to the expenses. Plus, people are likely to miss some time at work, which can make paychecks smaller. Clearly, it’s preferable to avoid these kinds of consequences.

“Illegal Gambling”

To do so, people need to have a clear idea of what California law defines as “illegal gambling.” It’s perfectly legal for a group of friends to gather on Tuesday nights for a poker game, even if they’re betting money on it. However, that same game would become illegal if it was played at an establishment where the players were pitting themselves against “the house.” California’s gambling laws make a large number of specific games illegal. The list includes, but is not necessarily limited to:

-Twenty-one
-Faro
-Roulette
-Rondo
-Rouge et noire
-Seven-and-a-half
-Monte

California law dictates that it is a crime to deal, carry on, play or conduct any of these and other games where a “house” is in control. Still, this doesn’t mean that all forms of gaming are illegal within the state. California recognizes Indian casinos, which are styled much the same way that Las Vegas casinos are, which must be located on tribal land. Slot machines, bingo and banked games like poker and blackjack are all permitted on the premises.

Card clubs are also legal in California. These establishments charge each player a fee for joining the game. The players bet only against each other and not the house, which is the distinction that makes these businesses legal even if they refer to themselves as casinos and are not located on tribal land.

Parimutuel horse betting is also permitted by state law. Sometimes referred to as mutual betting, the people who engage in this type of gaming are not betting against the house. Instead, the bets of all players are pooled, which means that they are betting against each other. Fees and taxes are deducted from the winnings before being distributed to the successful players. The only form of parimutuel betting that is legal in California involves horse races. Any other parimutuel play is likely to run afoul of the law.

Of course, the state also permits a lottery, which they regulate and run themselves. Charitable gambling is also allowed. However, this is restricted to bingo and all proceeds must be given directly to charity. Under the law, it is illegal for people to play other games like bingo, faro and twenty-one even if the proceeds will go to a worthy cause.

People often get caught up in a situation that they don’t understand. They may believe that the poker game or club that their friend invites them to is a completely above-board operation. Reality only sets in when they are confronted by a police officer and an evening in jail. Breaking California Penal Code 330 can have serious consequences even if it only results in misdemeanor charges. Tread carefully wherever California’s gambling laws might come into play.

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