Gambling has long been a favored pastime in the United States. In California, gambling is heavily controlled, limiting where and when you can gamble and the ways in which you can gamble. Many Californians simply head to Vegas for the weekend to get their gambling fix in, but those who choose to stay in-state could face criminal prosecution. Gambling in California is regulated by the Bureau of Gambling Control. Under regulation, many forms of gambling can result in criminal charges. There is a wide range of games that may be considered illegal gambling under California state law. Games included under California Penal Code § 330 include faro, monte, roulette, lansquenet, rouge et noire, rondo, tan, fan-tan, seven-and-a-half, twenty-one, and hokey-pokey. However, this list of games is not conclusive. Any banking or percentage-based game played with dice, cards, or some other gambling device, for some form of value, be it chips or cash, is illegal. Under Penal Code § 330, those convicted face a misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to six months in a county jail and/or a fine of between $100 and $1,000. This law applies to those gambling for personal amusement as well as gambling hosts and those hired to deal or particulate in the gambling as well. Specifically, anyone who opens, deals, plays, or otherwise facilitates a game can face prosecution.
There are a few important exceptions to the laws against gambling in California. Gambling is allowed under certain circumstances, however is nevertheless highly regulated. Gambling in Native American tribal casinos is permissible. California has dozens of tribal casinos spread out across the state. Gambling at these casinos will not get you in trouble and it benefits the local tribes. Animal race betting is one of the more ancient forms of gambling. In California, some forms of horse race betting are permissible. Although horse racing in California is highly regulated, racing facilities employ a special kind of betting system that side steps state laws on gambling. Pari-mutuel betting at horse racing facilities works around California gambling laws to allow betters to bet against each other instead of the house, thus making it legal. However, unregulated horse race betting still occurs off the books and it is illegal. Gambling for charity at charitable events, usually bingo games, is allowed, as is gambling through the California lottery. Card clubs, another exception to California's gambling laws, allow legal gambling. These clubs are under strict regulations themselves, however, and must have various permissions to operate a card club legally.
In addition to strict regulations on gambling games involving one or more players and a house, slot machines and other similar gambling machines and devices are also highly regulated in California. Slot machines are permissible under certain circumstances, much like card and dice games are. However, aside from these exceptions, if you are found in possession or control of a slot machine, or were facilitating the operation of a slot machine, you can face a misdemeanor charge, up to six months in a county jail and/or a fine of between $500 and $1,000, under California Penal Code § 330(a). A second offense will result in up to six months in a county jail and/or a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000. A third or subsequent offense will result in up to one year in a county jail and/or a fine of between $10,000 and $25,000. If you were found in possession or control of more than one slot machine or similar gambling machine, you will face an additional fine of between $1,000 and $5,000 for each additional machine and/or location where the machine is kept. This includes machines kept in storage. As you can see, there are many ways in which you can gamble legally in California, however there are harsh consequences if you choose to gamble under any other circumstances. It is a good idea to speak to an experienced attorney if you are facing gambling charges. Gambling laws in California are complex and you could benefit from skilled counsel when approaching your defense.
Are you or a loved one facing illegal gambling charges? Experienced California criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens has handled thousands of cases and has taken over 50 to trial. Attorney Martens will assess your case and advise you on how to build a strong defense. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide expert DUI defense counsel. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.