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California Gambling Raids Highlight Glaring Problems With Law

California Outline Map

No matter where in the world you are, some form of gambling is available to you whether you know it or not. Though this is a constant truth, the legality of the gambling available to you is a point of contention no matter where you go.

This statement could not be any truer than when made with regard to the United States where the laws regarding gambling are vague where they exist at all. Being that gambling laws are, for the most part, handled on a state-by-state basis, understanding what is and is not legal can become a difficult and painstaking undertaking. Just look at the recent fracas surrounding the Wire Act and the legal uncertainty about live cardrooms in Texas, like the Texas Card House, to see how confusing the laws relating to this pastime can be.

In California, the gambling laws are clear; however, the way in which the gambling industry is set up has created a situation where illegal gambling rings are being raided by the police. Since the beginning of March 2019 alone, more than three illicit gambling establishments have been targeted with upward of 100 people arrested or detained as a result. Police may be tackling what they see as illegal gambling operations, but it seems as though lawmakers refuse to put in place legislation that eliminates the need for underground gambling rings.

California Cracks Down on Illicit Gaming Parlors

Raids Conducted in Santa Ana, Westminster

Police Officer and Car

The beginning of March is when this series of recent raids began, first taking place in Westminster, California. This particular raid targeted two households that were reportedly bustling with activity at all hours of the day and night. After months of investigating, authorities moved in on the two houses and, by the time the dust settled, had arrested more than 25 people. Along with the people arrested, authorities also seized drugs, weapons, and gambling devices.

Flash forward a month, and two more raids were carried out, this time in neighboring Santa Ana. On April 10, police raided the Lucky 999 cyber café and arrested more than 20 people while capturing many gambling machines, believed to be slot games and video poker terminals. Though the investigation commenced thanks to tips from concerned residents, the location was named “Lucky 999,” which, to many, was a dead giveaway that illegal gambling was taking place inside.

Finally, another Santa Ana cyber café was raided a week later and more arrests and seizures were made. Though this raid was also a product of community tips, the operation made seemingly no attempt to cover up what it was doing.

First of all, the cyber café was open 24 hours a day: something that you do not normally see. In addition to that, there seemed to be a constant stream of visitors even late at night. All told, only five gaming terminals were seized, but it is clear that California authorities are sending a message to those who are currently operating or wish to operate an illegal gambling concern.

Why Do Illegal Operations Exist?

Green Question Mark

With California being one of the most liberal-leaning states in the country, you might be wondering why there is a need for illegal gambling to exist at all. After all, the state is home to multiple racetracks, casinos, and card rooms, all of which offer varying styles of legalized gambling. What’s more, there are plenty of CA offshore online poker rooms and casinos whereby Californians can play their favorite games.

The answer to this, though not a simple one, has to do with the way in which gambling is segregated. In the Los Angeles area – where all of these raids are taking place – the only widely available form of gambling is that which occurs in the local card rooms.

Typically, these venues are dominated by poker but will sometimes also feature other table games, such as blackjack. What these card rooms don’t have, however, are other classic casino games like slots, roulette, craps, and so much more. In order to play those types of games, LA residents must pack up their cars and venture to Native American reservations, where the gambling laws are much more relaxed.

Image of the Commerce CasinoCommerce Casino, Near Los Angeles, Has Hundreds of Poker and Gaming Tables
However, Slot Machines, Video Poker, Craps, Roulette, and Other Popular Gambling Options Are Absent

Seeing as not everyone has the time and money to drive multiple hours to gamble, many are instead turning to the types of illegal operations that exist much closer to home even though they are against the law.

Legal Reform Long Desired

Court Building

This problem seems like it could be solved if the government would not place such arbitrary, restrictive laws on the gambling industry, but attempts at reform have gotten very little traction. Part of the reason for this is because the Native American tribes who are allowed to offer full-scale casino gambling are constantly lobbying against any sort of relaxation of the gambling laws and regulations especially online.

Logo of CNIGAThe California Nations Indian Gaming Association Is Generally Against Gambling Expansion

Legislation for California-licensed online poker has been floated many times over the course of the last decade, but each and every time it has been dissected and eventually killed. Californians do have plenty of places to play poker and other casino games both online and at brick-and-mortar locations, but there is a desperate need for the laws governing the gambling industry to be updated.

It Is Possible to Play Online

Computer Monitor

In the meantime, offshore operators may be technically frowned-upon by the California authorities, but the state government has no effective jurisdiction over them, and so these gaming destinations are de facto legal. If you are in the market for competitive real money online poker, check out our review of the top poker sites for players from the United States, including California.