Penal Code 330 PC | Gaming

Penal Code 330 PC | Gaming

Gambling laws can be super confusing. Like, what’s actually illegal when it comes to games of chance and making bets? Well, in California, Penal Code 330 PC is the main law that makes most forms of gambling illegal. Let’s break it down so you know what’s allowed and what could get you into trouble.

Definition of Gambling

Basically, any game where you risk something of value for a chance to win something is gambling. It doesn’t matter if it’s money, property, or just bragging rights on the line – if you’re wagering on a game of chance, it’s likely covered by anti-gambling laws. Some examples:

  • Poker, blackjack, craps – you’re betting money
  • Office sports pool – you’re risking an entry fee for a chance at the pot
  • Bingo at church – you pay to play for prizes
  • Raffles – buying tickets for a chance to win a prize
  • Betting on fantasy sports leagues – you pick teams and wager money on the outcome
  • Slot machines – you’re inserting money for a chance to win more money

Pretty much all forms of gambling – even social gambling – can violate Penal Code 330 PC. The only exceptions are for regulated gambling at places like casinos, card rooms, or the California Lottery.

Penalties for Unlawful Gambling

Breaking gambling laws is a misdemeanor. But the maximum punishment depends on exactly what you were doing:

  • Up to $1,000 fine and/or 6 months county jail for playing or betting at an illegal gambling game.
  • Up to $5,000 fine and/or 1 year county jail for owning or operating an illegal gambling operation.

Fines can be much higher if it’s not your first offense. Jail time can also increase if there are aggravating factors, like you were gambling with minors.

Legal Defenses

There are a few defenses that could get you off the hook:

  • No “value” was wagered – For something to be illegal gambling, you have to risk something of value. If nothing of value was on the line, it may not meet the definition.
  • You weren’t the “house” – To be guilty of running an illegal operation, you need to profit off the game like a casino would. Just organizing a social game for friends may not qualify.
  • It was regulated gambling – Games at licensed casinos, card rooms, or lottery retailers are legal in California.

Poker Nights & Office Pools

Can I have a friendly poker night with friends? What about an office March Madness pool? Even though money is changing hands, these social gambling situations are rarely prosecuted under Penal Code 330 PC. Law enforcement is more focused on organized operations. But in theory, these smaller games could be illegal.

Online Gambling

Betting online makes things more complicated. While placing bets online is technically illegal in California, it’s rarely enforced against individual players. However, the websites themselves can face prosecution for operating here. That’s why most offshore gambling sites try to block access from California. But again, players are rarely targeted.

Bottom Line

While social gambling happens all the time, you’re taking a risk under California’s strict anti-gambling laws. My advice? Keep friendly wagers extremely low stakes. And avoid online betting sites that aren’t approved here. If in doubt, talk to a lawyer about your specific situation. Gambling laws can be tricky, so better safe than sorry!


California Penal Code 330 PC – Unlawful Games, Offenses Relating To Gambling.

Penal Code 330 PC – “California’s Laws on Gambling and Betting”.

“Is Online Gambling Legal in California?” –