Legalized online gambling in the US is not a novel concept. Internet sports betting got the ball rolling in many states and naturally branched out to include casino games such as slots and live dealer installments.
In places such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, people can access their favorite online casinos on their desktops, laptops, and smartphones. Other regions, such as California, are expected to pass laws to legalize all-inclusive online casinos in the future.
However, expectation often does not meet reality and nothing is certain until the last thread of the legal red tape snaps. Read on here about the viable alternatives to online casinos in California and the likelihood of the Golden State entering this lucrative niche.
Prospects of legalized online gambling in California
California’s population is a diverse mix consisting of roughly 39 million people. The region is known for its tribe-operated, land-based casinos and it seems only natural that the state would favor online gambling.
While there are no California real-money online casinos, booming lottery games, poker rooms, and horserace betting pegs the state as a gamble-rich zone ready to embrace the variegated possibilities of online casinos. At this stage, players can only access slots and table games on tribal lands — a situation that will change with legalized online casinos.
Historically speaking, California traveled a bumpy road to legalizing some gambling activities and still has some miles to travel before opening the doors to online casinos. Always being a fast favorite in this state, poker enjoyed legal status as far back as 1872.
During the early 1930s, the state approved pari-mutuel wagers on horse races. This coincided with the opening of Santa Anita Park and the establishment of the California Horse Racing Board.
A decade later, Larry Flynt’s Lucky Lady Casino saw the dawn in 1940. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act passed on the heels of the approval of the state lottery in the 1980s. This law allowed native tribes to run casinos on their lands.
Despite the logic driving a legit California online casino, there are still some hurdles in the road. The California Gambling Control Commission, which saw the light in 1997, regulates cardrooms throughout the state and gave its go-ahead for non-banking games such as poker and baccarat.
A year later, in 1998, the Tribal-State Gaming Compacts approved slots and banked table games at casinos on tribal lands. This momentum lost traction when heated debates between the tribes and sportsbook operators halted the legalization of online sports betting.
In many states, legit online sports betting opened the virtual doors for fully-fledged online casinos. Approximately 1.6 million people supported this notion in California and it appeared on the November 2022 ballot as Prop 27 (or Proposition 27).
This proposition made online sports betting possible for both tribes and other gambling outfits. However, it also underpinned certain fees going to the state for things such as regulation costs and federal gaming taxes, which in turn curbs illegal online betting endeavors.
Industry giants FanDuel, DraftKings, and BetMGM supported this move. However, native Americans backed a counter proposition: Proposition 26. The group maintained that Prop 27 directly impacted tribe-based gambling operations and financial independence.
These two opposing groups entered a verbal war and spent approximately $460 million on validating and discrediting measures. In the end, Prop 27 ended up with a scant 16.7% of the votes. If this initiative met approval, avid fans could have placed their first legal online sports wagers as early as September 2023.
Although focused on sports betting, this whole debacle has a direct impact on the legalization of online casinos in California. As stated, once online sportsbooks are legal, comprehensive online casinos soon follow.
Unless these two sides reach an agreement, California will not open the doors of online sportsbooks or casinos soon. Today, online gamblers get their thrills on social casinos, which work more or less like traditional online enterprises minus real-money wagers.
Online social casinos in California
Online social casinos, such as Chumba and Luckyland Slots, are the answer for Californians who want to play slots and table games. Participation in these sites is legal as no real-money bets are placed. Other options for online gambling in the Golden State include:
- Poker sites.
- Betting on fantasy sports through operators such as FanDuel.
- Punting on the horses through pari-mutuel operators such as TVG.
Players must be 18 or older to engage in any of these online gambling activities. However, most operators peg 21 as the minimum gambling age.
How does a social casino work?
Although players gamble for fun, they can win sweepstakes coins. They exchange these for real-money prizes, gift cards, or other rewards.
A sweepstakes casino — also known as a social casino — hosts the same games one will find in a conventional online casino. But, instead of placing wagers with real-money deposits, players stake their bets with sweeps coins or digital tokens gained via the site. In this way, even if play is free, winnings can be redeemed for cash or other prizes as mentioned.
Like gambling, the outcome of sweepstakes games relies on chance where Lady Luck has the last word. These outlets operate according to a ‘no purchase necessary’ policy, which makes them legal for all.
However, players can enter sweepstakes draws and competitions. Generally, they can buy sweepstakes coins to participate in these.
Another similarity between social and real-money online casinos is sign-up bonuses. But, instead of getting a portion or percentage of initial deposits back, players get their bonuses as sweeps coins. For example, Luckyland Slots give players 10 sweeps coins when signing up and another 10 when making a first purchase.
Signing up with a social casino is a breeze. Most allow Facebook registrations, which means once you press the ‘play’ button, the sweepstakes casino asks if it can use your social media details to create an account.
When will online casinos open in California?
To date, there is no indication of when online casinos will be legalized in California. That makes social casinos the only legal way for Californians to get their online gambling shoes on.