While gambling may be legal within casinos on federally recognized tribal land within California, it’s usually illegal in off of tribal properties. In fact, there are a number of crimes related to gambling within the state, but because the ins and outs of California’s gaming laws can be confusing, it’s important that anyone accused of these crimes contact a lawyer like attorney Peter M. Liss.
California Gambling Laws
The is the main law used to prosecute gambling violations in California is Penal Code section 300 (PC). This law covers everyone actively involved in the game, for example, a person hosting a card game, a person dealing at the card game and the people who play the game. Under the law, “banking” and “percentage” games are both against the law, meaning games where there is a “house” that earns money from the players. In plain language, this means that poker games among friends are legal because one player takes the whole pot, while blackjack is against the law as the house collects from the players and pays out to the winners, earning a profit in the process. Other games you may see in casinos that are against the law to play outside of a casino located on tribal land in California include:
- Slot machines
- Pai Gow
It is worth noting that there is an exception made specifically for bingo games played for a charitable purpose and operated by a tax-exempt organization, but if these restrictions aren’t met, the bingo game is not legal within California. Another exemption is the state lottery. Additionally, while other forms of sports betting are against the law, betting on a horse race is legal and, in fact, a popular form of gambling in San Diego County. Finally, while many card clubs bill themselves as casinos, they differ in that they charge players a fee to play games such as poker where players gamble against one another and not the house.
Violations of 300 (PC) are a misdemeanor, meaning that illegal gambling in California can carry sentences of up to 6 months in jail, probation and fines between $100 and $1000.
California’s Bookmaking Law
While the gaming law outlaws all general aspects of gambling, bookmaking focuses on those hosing the games, often referred to as “being a bookie.” For example, a person taking bets, a person collecting money for bets, a person hosting an illegal game or a person who owns the property used for an illegal gambling operation and knowingly allows it to be used for such purposes. These activities are covered by California Penal Code section 337 (PC).
Because bookmaking charges are reserved for those organizing the illegal activity, they are more serious than simple gaming charges. In fact, being a bookie is a crime considered a “wobbler,” meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony in California. As a misdemeanor, this charge is punishable by up to one year in jail. As a felony, it can carry a prison sentence of up to three years.
Many people try to defend themselves from bookmaking charges by arguing that they didn’t actually serve as a bookie -and in the process end up incriminating themselves by stating exactly what activities they did, such as offering credit to people placing bets. That is why anyone accused of bookmaking should contact a San Diego gambling defense lawyer as soon as possible without speaking to the police.
Gambling Fraud Charges
While gaming and bookmaking charges apply even to those hosting honest games, gambling fraud charges can also be brought up against those hosting rigged games under California Penal Code section 332 (PC). In addition, these charges can actually brought up against fortune tellers in some cases.
Naturally, the best defense against these charges is for your attorney to help you prove you were not operating a rigged game, though this defense often involves stating that you were breaking the law by hosting some type of a game that was against the law. The good news is that while games like three card monte are notorious for being fixed, other games are not and it can be difficult for the prosecution to show that someone illegally rigged a game of chance in many cases.
When it comes to successfully pressing charges against fortune tellers, the prosecution must show that the defendant did not believe in his own powers of foresight and was not operating his business for entertainment purposes -in other words, that he willfully deceived his customers. Again, this can be a very high standard to prove, which is why these types of charges are rare.
If you have been accused of any type of crime related to gambling, including acting as a bookie or participating in a crooked game, Peter M. Liss can help.Please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free initial consultation.
Creative Commons Image by Matthew Powell