California’s Forms of Legal Gambling


There are four main forms of legalized gambling establishments in California. Each of these gambling establishments possesses different forms of gambling (with some overlap), and each is governed by a different set of rules and regulations.

Please note that the forms of gambling discussed on this page are broad, general and not intended to be all-inclusive unless otherwise stated.

1.  Card rooms
The primary offerings at card rooms are poker games (Texas hold’em, Omahas, etc.). However, many card rooms also have other forms of card games, such as Pai Gow Poker, Super Pan 9, “California 21” (also called by the names “no bust blackjack,” “21st century blackjack,” “22” and many others) are available as “player banked” games.

Player banking is a means to offer forms of gambling which would otherwise have been illegal. In a player banked game, the house neither pays nor takes the player’s bet. Instead, they charge a service fee (typically $0.50 to $5) per hand to facilitate the game, and the players play against each other (not the house).

Player banked games are usually not considered “traditional,” and the odds are often stacked more heavily against the players due to the service fees.

Because of the additional player-banked games they offer, some card rooms choose to use the word “casino” in their name; however, there are several differences between card rooms and casinos. One of the largest: card rooms all report to a single governing body, and are required to follow the same rules and regulations, which makes participation in state-wide Responsible Gambling programs (such as self-exclusion) much easier.

2.   Native American Casinos
Native American Casinos have a wider variety of legalized gambling than card rooms. The biggest difference between these casinos and card rooms are that they have slot machines. They also can offer games including: blackjack (and other table games), poker, bingo and sometimes off track betting (OTB).

Conversely, each Native American tribe’s land is considered sovereign, or “self-governing.” The tribes usually have their own government, and often have their own police forces, court and public health systems, and so forth.

3.  Lottery
The California lottery sells tickets at more than 21,000 locations throughout the state. Tickets are sold in two forms:

  • Drawing tickets for progressive jackpots, with the numbers selected at pre-determined times
  • Scratchers for the chance to win at the time you purchase the ticket

4.  Race Tracks
Race tracks allow patrons to gamble on horse races.


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