Since California is the most populated state in the US, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it features the most poker rooms. However, we are talking only about brick-and-mortar poker rooms spread all over the state.
That’s why, unfortunately, we cannot say the same about online poker in California. What’s more, it is still unregulated and illegal.
But with the major developments in the online gambling world of the US, will there be a change with poker as well? Can California poker players start playing online poker in legal and regulated sites like players from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Nevada, Michigan, and West Virginia?
How to Play Poker Online in California
At the moment, Californians have a few ways of playing poker online.
First, you can play sweepstakes poker on sites like Global Poker. The website is home to players from all US states, excluding Washington. The deal is this — you don’t get to play with real money, but with virtual currency called gold coins or sweeps coins.
However, you can purchase this currency with real money or get it as a bonus and through Facebook giveaways.
Besides that, you can also play online poker in offshore casinos, effectively bypassing the need for a legal and regulated poker room in California. Many players use these sites, but some risks still apply.
California Penal Code states fines from $100 to $1,000 for doing so and even imprisoned for up to six months. Thankfully, there have been no cases of this ever happening in the state.
California Poker Laws and Regulations
California has a long history with poker. It all started way back in the 19th century during the gold rush. Gaming houses were set up all over the state, allowing people to play poker regularly. However, it wasn’t until 1931 that California made gambling legal.
As for poker, only draw poker was legal for a long time. It wasn’t until 1987, when Texas hold’em became incredibly popular in the US, that the California legislature made both stud poker and Texas hold’em legal.
At the start of the 21st century, online gambling in California started gaining strides, especially poker. As a result, lawmakers started introducing online poker bills almost regularly.
Over the years, the state introduced many bills, but none succeeded in creating a legal and regulated online poker environment. Naturally, one of the biggest obstacles was the lack of an agreement between the tribal casinos and commercial gambling parties.
As you can expect, all of them want California casinos to have legal online poker, but they also want to be the ones to benefit the most from it.
There were attempts to push the issue further without the approval of the other sides, but these were utterly unsuccessful.
The most notable example is when the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel tried to open up a poker site in 2014, but their attempt was squashed by the state, which declared this violated the local law. The tribe went to court with the state, but their fight ended in 2018 when the Ninth District Court of Appeals declared that it did violate California law.
Future of Online Poker in California
As many already know, things started to change significantly in the US online gambling world from 2018 onwards. That was when the US Supreme Court removed the law that made it impossible for states other than Nevada to offer sports betting.
Naturally, California jumped on the bandwagon, with many lawmakers trying to create a sports betting bill that would respect the interests of commercial gambling organizations and the countless tribal casinos.
However, this means that poker would have to wait its turn, mainly because sports betting would bring higher profits to everyone involved, including the state itself.
There is still no movement when it comes to sports betting besides the fact that voters will likely be the ones to decide whether the practice becomes legal in California. However, this will happen in 2022, meaning there is likely no hope for legal online poker in the state for the foreseeable future.
If the voters decide that the state should implement sports betting and possibly even online sports betting, the next step would be for the lawmakers to create a detailed regulation for it.
Once that’s done, it will still take time for it to be implemented and for the first sites to pop up. Only after all of that can we start hoping that legal online casinos and online poker will finally become the topic of the day.