Is bingo legal in California? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is a bit complicated, just like the history of gambling in the United States. For the most part, gambling in the States is legally restricted. The U.S. government allows each state to set most of its gambling laws.
According to California law, legal forms of gambling include the California State Lottery, “Indian” casinos, card rooms, horse racing, and pari-mutuel wagering.
But where does bingo fit in?
1. You Can Legally Play Bingo Online Through Non-CA Websites
For the most part, playing bingo for real money in California is prohibited, but you can still legally play bingo online for real money through non-Californian gambling sites. If you’re interested, check out Smart Bingo Guide’s article on the most trusted bingo sites in and outside of the US.
2. Bingo Primarily Exists as a Popular Form of Charitable Gaming
The California Penal Code 326.5 excludes bingo from the statewide prohibition on gambling if the game raises money for charity. Under Section 19 of Article IV of the State Constitution, the state will not regulate or license traditional bingo games, but individual jurisdictions can.
3. Only Certain Organizations Are Eligible to Run Charitable Game
Organizations that are exempt from taxation under sections 23701 a, b, d, e, f, g, k, l, and w in California’s Revenue and Taxation Code, as well as senior citizen organizations, mobile home park associations, and school district affiliated organizations are eligible for charitable bingo.
4. California Places Restrictions for Who Can Attend Bingo Games
If you were invited to a charitable bingo night, you must ensure you’re over the age of 18, and the game is open to the public. All guests must attend the charity game in person. If possible, the guests must check with the gambling board if the game is considered legal before attending.
5. The Top Gambling Prize for Charity Games is $500 Maximum
If you do play for a charity, you can earn a top prize of $500, but you typically spend more to play the game in the first place. Since a lot of charity organizations cater to the wealthy, you may need to spend a significant amount to join in a low-stakes game, which may not be possible.
6. California Overseas One Form of Legal Bingo: Remote Caller Games
Remote caller bingo is like traditional bingo, but the charity or gambling hall will use audio and video technology to transmit remote calling to affiliated facilities. For the facility to broadcast this game, they have to be rented, leased, or owned by the same organization that calls the game.
7. Remote Caller Games Are Not Accessible Online Through Websites
Although you can play bingo online through non-CA websites, you can’t access remote caller games and their online feed anywhere else, but at the physical site they’re broadcasted at. However, you can access free-to-play online casinos if a tribal casino has a gambling app.
8. Californians Can Access Free-to-Play or Sweepstakes Bingo Sites
Besides logging into an online free-to-play tribal casino app, you can also play at social and sweepstakes sites. These sites offer virtual currencies, but some give you the chance to claim prizes. They require no purchase to play, but you won’t win real money at these websites.
9. The State of California Allows Bingo at “Indian” Tribal Casinos
The state of California also allows federally recognized Native American tribes that also have gambling compacts to offer live bingo in casinos. At these casinos, you’ll find other Class III games like blackjack and slot machines, which are a rare sight. Most only offer Class II games.
10. Tribal Casinos Also Offer Electronic Bingo or Video Bingo
Electronic bingo, e-bingo, or video bingo is a game that simulates the bingo experience. If a tribe casino does offer live games, but there isn’t a current game being played in the bingo hall, they’ll have electronic bingo systems you can play. Some need players, while others use AI.
11. The California Lottery Also Has Bingo-Themed Scratch Games
If you want to play bingo but can’t make it to a charity event or tribal casino, you can play bingo games from the California State Lottery. These scratchers tell players to match the caller card’s numbers to the numbers on their bingo cards, similar to an in person or online bingo game.