California is acknowledged to be the poker capital of the USA. There are even more poker rooms here than in Nevada, and anyone who wants to find a game has plenty of options right on their doorstep in and around Santa Monica. Nevertheless, as the recent controversy over Prop 26 and Prop 27 clearly demonstrated, the whole topic of gambling and the laws around it in California are something of a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Here, we clarify the legal regulations surrounding poker in California.
As we mentioned, California has a huge choice of licensed poker rooms, including the awesome Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, where there are more than 200 tables. Closer to home, there’s the Hollywood Casino and Larry Flynt’s, both a short drive from Santa Monica. These and many others are licensed to host poker games and to charge a rake.
Back in the 1990s, everyone was playing internet poker. Unfortunately, the presence of some bad actors ruined it for all, and there was a wholesale shut down on a date that became known in poker circles as Black Friday. Today, the situation is complicated. Only a handful of US states have legal online poker sites that are licensed to operate. However, that doesn’t prevent players from finding online poker platforms that are based offshore. It’s just a case that they need to be attentive and make sure the site is reputable and holds a proper license wherever it is based.
How about going to your buddy’s house and playing poker around the kitchen table the old fashioned way? That is actually fine under California law, as long as the host does not charge a rake. That is to say he may not take a percentage as a fee for hosting the game. The host can take part in the game, and if he wins fair and square, then that is absolutely fine.
Charity poker fundraisers
Charity events prevent a challenge to lawmakers. On one hand, regulators have no wish to place obstacles in the way of people raising money for good charitable causes. On the other, the “charity fundraiser” angle is one that has a track record when it comes to being abused by the unscrupulous. For this reason, California has a set of rules under which eligible charities and NPOs can host one gambling-oriented fundraising event per year, provided it is properly registered and approved.
Video poker is immensely popular across many US states. But the version available in California casinos is quite different to anything you might have played in Las Vegas or Atlantic City. California casinos offer what is called Class II video poker. This does not have any skill aspect and is actually closer to bingo that poker, as you are just waiting optimistically for what you need to pop up on the screen. As with other games, “real” video poker can be found on most offshore casino sites.