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When Is Gambling Legal?

By Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney on November 5, 2020

Gambling as we know it was first started in California during the Gold Rush of 1849, when prospecting Americans moved west in order make their fortunes. Groups of mostly men gathered together with very little in the way of established entertainment, and betting sprang up. However, before long some saloon owners were cheating those playing cards and other games of chance in their businesses, and gambling became more controversial in California.

Many of the 50 states have laws against gambling, making it illegal except in certain scenarios. California is no exception to this. In fact, while California is considered to have some of the laxest gambling laws on the books, they still exist. And breaking gambling laws could still result in a serious conviction, leading to harsh penalties. But when did gambling become illegal? Why is it still illegal? In what scenarios is a person in California legally allowed to gamble?

Gambling Defined

Under California Penal Code 330 PC, it is illegal for anyone to deal, play, or carry out a prohibited game. There are many gambling-related games that are legally prohibited. Participating in any of these could easily result in an arrest, and up to six months behind bars. Some of the games made illegal under California laws include:

  • Roulette
  • Twenty-one or blackjack
  • Faro
  • Monte
  • Tan

While there are a large number of specific games that are outlawed as potential gambling games, any game could be considered illegal if it falls under one of the two prohibited game types. Those two include:

A banking game: Where the house or bank collects money from the losers and then uses that money to pay the winners.

A percentage game: Where the house or bank collects any portion of the bets for payment of hosting the game.

This means that even a game of Go Fish could be considered illegal if you are betting on, or collecting bets from, the game. The most important thing to consider when it comes to avoiding illegal gambling is whether any of the people participating, be they player or host, is losing or gaining money, goods, or property. If the answer is yes, then chances are high that the game is illegal.

Gambling in California

There are five scenarios in which gambling is legal in California.

Native casinos: Certain Tribes within California are given special permission to run their own casinos, where gambling is legal. That being said, there are still regulations around these casinos, so not every game or act is permitted.

Cardclubs: Are often mistaken for casinos, however, these clubs require that all players pay a fee before playing. Casinos are not pay to play, even if they require the purchasing of chips. Besides that, though, cardclubs are run largely the same way as casinos.

Charitable gambling: It may come as a shock, but there is such a thing as charitable gambling, and it is legal in California. Usually this takes the form of a bingo game, where all proceeds are given to a charity, instead of to the players or the house.

Parimutuel horse wagering: When it comes to parimutuel betting, all bets are pooled together, meaning that players are now betting against each other, instead of against the house. In cases of parimutuel gambling, the only context in which it is legal in is horse racing, where players place bets on which horse they think will win the race.

State lottery: Most states, even ones with strict gambling laws, have a lottery. This involves buying a ticket with selected numbers and receiving a cash prize if the correct numbers were selected.

When You are Convicted of Illegal Gambling

After being convicted of gambling, you can face up to six months in jail, as well as a $1,000 fine. While this may not seem like that harsh of a sentence (and it is one of the lightest penalties for gambling in the country), the real problem is when related charges are piled up. Every crime has a few others that overlap it in some way. This means that anyone charged with a crime will likely also be charged with at least one or two other crimes.

Gambling is a money-and-goods-based crime, meaning there are a lot of other, often white-collar, crimes that may overlap, depending on the specific charges. If you are facing an arrest for gambling, you may also be arrested for embezzlement, money laundering, and even theft. You could also be facing extra charges for prostitution-related crimes, or pimping and pandering, if the bets made involved sex work. Any of these crimes could easily add years behind bars to your gambling sentence.

That is why, if you are facing serious fraud or theft crimes related to gambling, you need to reach out to one of the best defense teams in Los Angeles. We at Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP have years of experiencing fighting for our clients to receive the lightest sentence as possible, or to have their charges dropped completely. As skilled criminal defense attorneys, we are more than capable of taking on your case, and providing you with the defense that you need. For top-notch legal aid, call Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP at (213) 688-0460 today.

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