Responsible Gambling In California

California gamblers have a wealth of legal options. The Golden State plays host to a lottery, horse race betting, tribal casinos, and almost a hundred legal card rooms. 

Sports betting isn’t yet legal in California, but recent efforts have stirred up a buzz in the state. Future attempts may prove successful, bringing another stream of online gambling to the market. 

With many gambling channels available in the state, it’s crucial for Californians to understand the value of responsible gambling. 

At its core, gambling should be fun and entertaining. Players should keep the inherent risks in mind. Sometimes, gambling can become a harmful activity. On this page, we’ll cover the importance of responsible gambling, including how to play responsibly and how to recognize the signs of problem gambling. We will also include links and contact information for helpful resources. 

Responsible gambling: What it means

As the two-word term implies, “Responsible Gambling” means gambling responsibly. However, it goes significantly deeper than that. 

Responsible gambling encompasses every aspect of the gambling industry: players, online gambling operators, casinos, lotteries, and the regulators that govern them. The term—sometimes abbreviated as “RG”—is an umbrella term that includes various initiatives, programs, and goals that touch the entire industry. 

In general, responsible gambling means understanding that gambling is a form of entertainment, and it should be enjoyed as such. If it extends into other elements of a player’s life, it can become a problem. Responsible gambling also includes the programs, laws, and regulations that oversee gambling in any legal market. 

In California, the law ensures companies that provide gambling services abide by specific responsible gambling requirements. Failing to do so can result in an operator losing its license. 

What is problem gambling?

No discussion of responsible gambling is complete without a mention of problem gambling. In essence, these two terms are opposite sides of the same coin. 

Problem gambling is hard to define but is generally used to identify gambling behaviors that veer into harmful or destructive territory. It’s hard to define it concisely because problem gambling can encompass a wide variety of behaviors. In some cases, it’s difficult to tell whether you or a friend has a problem because the signs can be subtle—the results of problem gambling range from minor problems to catastrophic loss or destructive behavior. 

Recognizing problem gambling can be difficult, but there are usually clear signs. If you or someone you know exhibits the following behaviors, it could be a sign they struggle with problem gambling. 

  • Lying about gambling or hiding gambling activity
  • Borrowing money or asking for money from family/friends to gamble
  • Missing school, work, or important events unexpectedly
  • Changes in mood when not gambling (irritability)
  • Neglecting personal health and cleanliness
  • Selling or pawning belongings for gambling money
  • Missing important payments or failing to pay bills
  • Chasing losses
  • Becoming combative when discussing gambling
  • Frequently withdrawing money or requesting cash advances from creditors
  • Not feeling present when around friends/family due to thinking about gambling

These may be the most common signs of problem gambling, but there are others. Keep a close eye out for these signals and other changes in behavior if you think you or a loved one might have a problem. 

Tips to play responsibly in California and beyond

As mentioned above, California offers plenty of gambling options. The breadth of gambling outlets in the state—poker rooms, casinos, horse race betting, lottery, and more—makes responsible gambling especially important. 

You should always aim to understand that gambling contains an element of risk. Not just in terms of betting, but also in the risk of problem gambling. To ensure you keep your gambling experience fun and entertaining, follow these tips to play responsibly. 

  • Carefully track your wins and losses when gambling. 
  • Don’t chase losses; stop while you’re ahead. 
  • Set strict limits and stick to them.
  • Only gamble what you’re willing to lose (don’t use funds reserved for necessities such as bills or groceries).
  • Only gamble when you’re in a good headspace (avoid gambling when stressed or upset).
  • Ask for help if you need it.

How California casinos and gambling providers encourage responsible gambling

One of the most important things to keep in mind about responsible gambling is this: It’s not all on you. Every gambler should keep best RG practices in mind, sure. But operators should set, follow, and enforce responsible gambling rules to keep their players safe. 

Whether you play at a casino or card room, the games on offer should be built around a responsible gambling experience. To keep these experiences entertaining, operators should implement programs and practices that encourage safe and responsible play. 

  • Allow individuals to self-exclude from gambling, and strictly enforce self-exclusion lists. 
  • Provide responsible gambling resources and information on property. 
  • Make staff training about responsible gambling mandatory and educate workers on how to recognize signs of problem gambling. 
  • Prohibit customers who are drunk or otherwise impaired from gambling. 
  • Strictly enforce the minimum gambling age. 

Should California legalize online sports betting or online casinos in the future, legislators and regulators should enforce strict RG policies for those platforms as well. 

Problem gambling resources in California

California has numerous resources to prevent problem gambling. Prevention is only one side of the coin, however, and there are plenty of programs and organizations that help players who experience problem gambling. 

The options available to California gamblers are plentiful, and they include state-sanctioned resources and private organizations. These programs are specifically geared toward preventing and mitigating problem gambling. In the next section, we’ll cover what California organizations do to encourage responsible gambling. 

California Council on Problem Gambling

The CCPG is sanctioned by the state to prevent problem gambling and provide treatment to problem gamblers. The organization is affiliated with the National Council on Problem Gambling. The CCPG provides various services and resources, including:

  • Trained counselors and therapists to assist problem gamblers
  • A free inpatient program at a treatment facility
  • Support groups
  • A free outpatient treatment program
  • Self-help materials 
  • Self-assessment questions to identify problem gambling behaviors

California Gambling Education and Treatment Services

CalGETS is offered by Walden House, a California organization specializing in behavioral health. Problem gamblers who get in touch with CalGETS will connect with professionals for free treatment options. 

California Department of Public Health: Office of Problem Gambling

The Office of Problem Gambling has various dedicated resources for problem gambling prevention and treatment. There are three ways to get in touch with the office:

  • Call 1-800-GAMBLER
  • Text SUPPORT to 53342
  • Chat with a counselor at

The hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition to these direct resources, the Office of Problem Gambling runs public campaigns to educate Californians about the risks of problem gambling. 

Self-exclusion in California

California offers a self-exclusion initiative through the Bureau of Gambling Control and the California Gambling Control Commission. 

Players in California can voluntarily add themselves to self-exclusion lists to be prevented from gambling at the state’s casinos and card rooms. State law requires that gambling providers offer this option. Note that this requirement only applies to California card rooms. Tribal casinos in California are not subject to the self-exclusion requirement. 

In California, self-exclusion can take two forms. The first is a one-year self-exclusion. This option is irrevocable, so players who opt for it cannot reverse their choice. They can only enter gambling establishments after the year is up. The second option is a lifetime self-exclusion, which can be removed only by request and only after a year. 

Card rooms in California are allowed to tailor their self-exclusion programs with additional options, such as 30-day or 90-day exclusions. These vary by location. 

Responsible gambling in California

California regulators and gambling operators take a vested interest in promoting responsible play. The exact practices and initiatives vary by operator and organization. 

California Gambling Control Commission

The CGCC oversees all gambling in California, including card rooms and tribal casinos. The organization is also responsible for issuing licenses to approved operators. Conversely, the CGCC could revoke licenses if operators fail to meet responsible gambling requirements. 

The CGCC website has resources and tools for responsible gambling awareness. 

Bureau of Gambling Control

The Bureau of Gambling Control assists the CGCC in running Calirofnia’s self-exclusion programs. Additionally, it runs background checks on potential licensees and inspects the state’s gambling providers. Nonprofits that provide charity gambling options are also subject to the Bureau’s oversight. 

California card rooms and casinos

Card rooms and tribal casinos are subject to slightly different terms in California, but the results are similar. 

Card rooms are required to offer self-exclusion programs in order to keep their licenses. They are also expected to give players information about responsible gambling. 

Tribal casinos aren’t beholden to the same laws as card rooms. However, most still offer some sort of self-exclusion programs in addition to services and informational materials for players. 

The California Lottery

California’s state lottery abides by its own Code of Conduct on Responsible Gaming. For the full text, visit the CA lottery site

To curb problem gambling, the CA Lottery commits to the following missions:

  • Better understand and support responsible gaming
  • Bring awareness to problem gambling
  • Encourage responsible play and setting limits
  • Refer players who suffer from problem gambling to treatment from the Office of Problem Gambling

The Lottery’s initiatives include employee training, retailer education, warning messages on lottery games, and responsible advertising. 

Nationwide resources for responsible and problem gambling

State-specific resources are readily available, but there are additional options from national organizations. 

  • Gamblers Anonymous: a 12-step program with a free hotline: 1-855-2CALLGA (855-222-5542). Additionally, GA provides support meetings and a search engine to find one near you. 
  • Gam-Anon: A Gamblers Anonymous affiliate that focuses on providing assistance to relatives and friends of problem gamblers. 
  • Gamtalk: A community-based resource with a live chat service and various other treatment resources.
  • National Council on Problem Gambling: a full-service organization that helps problem gamblers and their loved ones. Offers a hotline: 1-800-522-4700 and a live chat option. 

The value of playing responsibly

Gambling is meant to be fun and entertaining. Playing with a responsible mindset and in moderation can lead to a fun gambling experience without destructive consequences. 

The unfortunate reality, however, is that gambling can have negative outcomes. This is why responsible gambling is so important. Understanding the warning signs and impacts of problem gambling can help you or the ones you love to play with a responsible outlook. 

Of course, the responsibility doesn’t lie entirely on players. Gambling providers, casino owners, legislators, and regulators should all take a vested interest in promoting responsible play. 

If you or someone you know needs help, use the resources on this page to find treatment or prevention options. 

About the Author

Cole Rush

Cole Rush is a contributor to California Casinos. Cole is a Chicago-based writer in the gambling, media, and entertainment space. His work has been showcased in various gaming industry magazines and online columns.