Does California Have Gambling Casinos?

Poker chips and cards with full house

Each year, millions of people in the United States risk a little bit of their hard-earned money for the thrill of potentially striking it big. When people think of gambling, they often think of the infamous Las Vegas. However, there are plenty of gambling options in many other states. So if you’re planning a trip to the Golden State, you might be wondering if California has gambling casinos? 

California has many gambling casinos located throughout the state providing locals and tourists with plenty of fun activities, including table games, slot machines, high-end restaurants, and other relaxing amenities such as pools and spas. 

This year, you might consider skipping Vegas and heading for California instead. A California trip is the perfect opportunity to blend the traditional “Sin City” experience with a milder climate and access to amazing parks, cities, and coastlines. Continue reading for more about California’s gambling industry, where the biggest casino is, and how to make the most of your visit. 

Casinos: Will You Find Them in California?

The State of California is a popular place to visit for people who love to gamble or play other games of chance. Currently, California is home to 76 casinos (plus some other smaller businesses such as poker lounges). These casinos range from massive Vegas-worthy establishments to smaller, lesser-known gambling centers. 

Casinos are located throughout Northern California, Southern California, and the Central Valley. There is at least one casino in 27 counties (of the 58 total California counties). No matter where you are visiting in the state, you can usually get to a casino within an hour or two by car. 

Dancing drums slot machines

Compared to other states, California has the third-highest number of casinos after Nevada and Oklahoma. Nevada is home to 337 casinos, and Oklahoma has 137. California Native American-owned casinos generate a total of about $9 billion in revenue each year (after paying out winnings).

What is the Biggest Casino in California?

Typically, casinos are ranked based on their gambling floor square footage. Based on this measurement, the largest casino in California is Pechanga Resort and Casino, located in Temecula (Southern California). The gambling floor covers an impressive 188,000 square feet and has 158 table games, 38 poker tables, and over 5,000 slot machines.

Pechanga Resort Casino

In addition, the resort boasts 11 restaurants, 3 bars, a high-end golf course, 13 pools, a 25,000 square foot health spa, and a 1,090 room hotel. While the casino doesn’t publish official visit numbers, some estimates are that on weekends, up to 40,000 people visit the casino each day. 

Do California Casinos Have to be on Indian Reservations? 

The State of California outlawed most forms of gambling shortly after attaining statehood. Currently, there are only a handful of approved types of gambling, including wagering on horse races (approved in 1933), bingo games for charitable purposes (approved in 1976), and the California Lottery (approved by Proposition 37 in 1984).  

Since Native American tribes have been granted special sovereignty under federal law, these rules do not apply to tribal lands. As a result, all of the casinos in California can be found on tribal lands or reservations. The Bureau of Gambling Control, the California Gambling Control Commission, and the California Tribal Gaming Agencies work together to oversee and administer the operation of these casinos. 

Barona Resort & Casino

The casinos are owned and operated by 60 different federally-recognized Native American tribes. None of these casinos are or can be owned by private individuals or companies that are not associated with the Native American tribes. 

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Do You Have to Be Native American to Work at a Casino in California? 

While ownership and operation of the casinos are under the jurisdiction of Native Americans on tribal lands, you don’t have to be Native American to work at the casinos. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 17,000 people work in the California gambling industry.

This labor number is a bit misleading because this doesn’t include the thousands of people who work in the casino’s on-site hotels or restaurants. In addition, because of the number of people required to keep these facilities operating, tribes often have to hire non-native people who live in the local community.

Bay Area Answers Fun Fact: California Grand Casino, located in Pacheco, California, is the oldest casino in the state, dating back to 1860. The original hotel and casino also served as a Pony Express stop.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Gamble in California?

Technically, you must be at least 18 years old to gamble in the State of California.  

At casinos, the age limit could either be 18 or 21. It all depends on what the individual tribe and the government agreed to in the compact.

However, since most casinos serve alcohol, they might set the age limit to 21 years of age to make it easier to track and avoid accidentally serving underage people on the gambling floor. So verify with the casino ahead of time before planning your visit to make sure your whole party is old enough to go. 

Ball in black number 8 on roulette wheel

Some casinos have kid-friendly amenities. This extra is good because it gives people of all ages activities to keep them entertained. However, the general rule of thumb is that minors are not permitted on the casino floor or near any of the gambling tables or machines.

Check with the casino ahead of time to find out if kids are welcome and what activities are available for them to take advantage of. Some kid-friendly activities may include: 

  • Movie Night in the hotel room – Have the older kids babysit by getting a pay-per-view movie and letting them order room service for dinner. 
  • Pool Fun – Most of the resorts have pools. Pools provide a great way to escape the summer heat in addition to providing hours of fun. 
  • Visit Nearby Parks – California is full of unique natural spaces and national parks. You can likely plan a day trip from the casino for an outdoor adventure. 
  • Non-Gambling Amenities – Some casinos have bowling alleys (Black Oak Casino Resort in Tuolumne), arcades (or non-gambling games), or golf.  

Does California Allow Online Gambling?

With easy access to gambling platforms online, there are no restrictions or laws restricting people from playing chance games online for money (such as playing Fantasy Football).

However, the state does not allow online gambling companies to set up shop or operate out of the state. 

What U. S. States Don’t Have Casinos?

Believe it or not, some states still don’t have casinos, including Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Vermont, Utah, and Hawaii. While many states do allow casinos, there are sometimes special rules. For example, some states require casinos to be off-land such as on a floating riverboat.

Who Owns the Most Casinos in the United States?

The Las Vegas Sands Corporation is the single largest casino owner in the United States. They have two massive establishments in Las Vegas (Palazzo and The Venetian), plus half a dozen other casinos. Globally, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation employs about 50,000 people and generates $13 billion in revenue, $4 billion more than the entire California gambling industry.

Despite its size, The Las Vegas Sands Corporation still makes up a small percentage of the global gambling industry. The entire gambling industry is estimated to be worth over $700 billion, with 4.6 billion people gambling at least once a year.

California is Always a Win

If you are visiting California, you don’t have to plan your entire trip around visiting a casino, and you might just be looking for a few days away from the city for some relaxation and fun. Whether you are visiting for a brief trip or with kids, visiting one of California’s great casinos can be a great addition to a fun-filled vacation.

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Ever since I was little I have been a traveler at heart. It all started when I was six years old and my family took a road trip to Alaska. I enjoy visiting new places and revisiting some of the great locations that I have been to already.