Southern California is one of the most unique regions in the entire country, featuring some of America’s most famous cities and most iconic tourist destinations. As it happens, it’s also a hotspot for gambling resorts and other activities — except sportsbook action, as California sports betting is still illegal.
Below we will explore the types of gambling you can enjoy, and where you can do so, when you visit Southern California.
Southern California casinos are mostly located in Los Angeles, Orange, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Imperial, San Diego, Riverside, and San Bernandino counties.
Southern California Indian Casinos
While most forms of gambling are illegal in California, Indian casinos in California are legal, and they remain havens of gambling activity. This is because tribal casinos are technically on Indian land instead of California state government property. As a result, state gambling legislation does not apply.
This allows Indian casinos to offer most major gambling activities you would expect from a classic casino and resort, such as slot machines, poker, video poker, Keno, bingo, and various table games, including blackjack, baccarat, and more. Games are either regulated by the National Indian Gaming Commission or by state authorities.
The tribal casino industry draws in over $9 billion of revenue every year, so each casino features its own theme and may add new areas or improvements from time to time. Southern California Indian casinos tend to emphasize LA or San Diego culture and iconography, featuring palm trees, movie imagery, and more. Lots of casinos emphasize their proximity to Hollywood and may include attached hotels.
The biggest concentration of Southern California casinos is in Riverside County and San Diego County. Of the 66 tribal casinos operating in California, a full 1/3 — or 33% — are in Riverside County and San Diego County, with 22.
Overall, 31 Indian casinos are in Southern California. It also has one Class II gaming casino — La Jolla Trading Post & Casino.
Top Southern California Indian Casinos
Because of the generally warm and sunny weather that SoCal resorts enjoy, most Indian casinos in this region also feature pools or spas. Here are some of the best Southern California tribal casinos available:
Pechanga Resort Casino
Pechanga Resort Casino is one of the largest casinos in California, nearing 190,000 square feet of gaming space and including over 4,500 slot machines. There’s also a lot of other things to enjoy, including over 20 restaurants and bars, and a hotel with over 1,000 rooms. A 25,000-square-foot spa ensures you can relax as well as you can play while staying at this resort.
Yaamava’ Resort & Casino
Yaamava’ Resort & Casino, formerly San Manuel Casino, added a new spa and hotel in 2021, and it’s one of the best resorts if you enjoy Asian or “Cal” games, like special variants of blackjack and other games. It now offers the most slot machines in all of California, at more than 7,000 in total.
Agua Caliente Casino
There are three separate Agua Caliente Casinos in Rancho Mirage, Cathedral City, and Palm Springs. The largest of the three is Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage, which has 1,400 slot machines, 48 table games, a poker room, a high-limit room, and 70,000 square feet of gaming space. Agua Caliente Casino Palm Springs features 1,000 slot machines and 22 table games. Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral City has 530 slot machines and eight table games.
Viejas Casino & Resort
Just 36 miles east of San Diego, Viejas Casino & Resort underwent remodeling in 2006 and now has a new high-limit gaming area of over 15,000 square feet. It’s a great resort if you want to bet big and maybe win or lose it all. It also offers just about 2,500 slot machines, plus three hotels and a plethora of attached restaurants and bars.
Morongo Casino Resort & Spa
Located 36 miles east of Riverside, Morongo Casino Resort & Spa is the third-largest casino in California. It offers 4,000 slot machines (including a 147-slot non-smoking room), 80 table games, a 20-table poker room, and a 150,000-square-foot gaming floor. Beyond that, Morongo also has a 600-seat bingo hall, a bowling alley, and a golf course.
Sycuan Casino Resort
Sycuan Casino Resort, about a 20-minute drive from downtown San Diego, is one of the largest California casinos, featuring 2,300 slot machines, 53 table games, a 15-table poker room, and 90,000 square feet of gaming space. There’s also 11 restaurants and bars, a 300-room hotel, and a golf course.
Biggest Casinos in Southern California
This list looks at number of slot machines first. If those numbers are the same for multiple casinos, then we consider number of table games.
|1. Yaamava' Resort and Casino
|7,000 slot machines, 150 table games, 290,000 square feet of gaming space
|2. Pechanga Resort & Casino
|5,400 slot machines, 152 table games, 200,000 square feet of gaming space
|3. Morongo Casino Resort & Spa
|4,000 slot machines, 80 table games, 20-table poker room, 150,000 square feet of gaming space
|4. Viejas Casino & Resort
|2,500 slot machines, 50 table games, 133,000 square feet of gaming space
|5. Sycuan Casino & Resort
|2,300 slot machines, 53 table games, 15-table poker room, 90,000 square feet of gaming space
|6. Chumash Casino Resort
|2,300 slot machines, 45 table games, 11-table poker room, 115,000 square feet of gaming space
|7. Barona Resort & Casino
|2,200 slot machines, 75 table games, 340,000 square feet of gaming space
|8. Pala Casino Resort & Spa
|2,000 slot machines, 61 gaming tables, 86,000 square feet of gaming space
|9. Soboba Casino Resort
|2,000 slot machines, 35 table games, 90,000 square feet of gaming space
|10. Spotlight 29 Casino
|2,000 slot machines, 22 table games, 80,000 square feet of gaming space
Southern California Card Rooms
Card rooms in California are the only place you can play legal poker in person outside tribal casinos. This is because players technically wager against one another. The dealer rotates after every hand. Card rooms themselves make a profit by taking a small fee from each person who participates.
Card rooms are excellent opportunities to either show off your poker skills or hone them even further. Some poker rooms are better for beginners and draw in crowds from all around the state. Others cater more to players with skill and may host a variety of professional tournaments.
Card rooms feature tables with a variety of buy-in limits and pool sizes.
Best Card Rooms in Southern California
Here are some of the top Southern California card rooms you can check out:
The Bicycle Hotel and Casino
The Bicycle Hotel and Casino is the most famous California card room thanks to its brush-ups with law enforcement over the years. These days, “the Bike” is a legit establishment that includes tons of poker games, plus a plethora of Cal games with dramatically varying limits. Legends of Poker, a tournament series running since 1995, still runs here to this day. The Bike includes a seven-story hotel with live entertainment venues and other gaming opportunities.
Commerce Casino is the largest card room in the entire world with over 270 poker tables. A 200-room hotel, an attached dining establishment, and more amenities make it a perfect place to stay to check out the greater Los Angeles area. The casino also serves as the site for many major tournaments. Although it draws in plenty of skilled poker players, it also has a reputation for being beginner-friendly thanks to the poker-teaching classes it offers every week.
Hawaiian Gardens Casino
Hawaiian Gardens Casino is open 24 hours daily and includes over 150,000 square feet of gaming space with over 220 tables. It includes a restaurant, cash games, massage services, auto shuffling machines, and cocktail services. Hawaiian Gardens is an all-inclusive resort and casino rather than a dedicated poker room, but this makes it a great fit for general tourists or casino fans who also want to brush up on their poker skills while on vacation.
List of Southern California Card Rooms
|500 Club Casino
|771 West Shaw Ave.
|1225 Airport Dr.
|111 Monterey St.
|Bicycle Hotel and Casino
|888 Bicycle Casino Dr.
|1459 Martin Luther King Jr. Way #5
|1355 North Main St.
|Central Coast Casino
|359 West Grand Ave.
|Club One Casino, Inc.
|1033 Van Ness Ave
|131 Telegraph Rd.
|123 East Artesia Blvd.
|Deuce Lounge & Casino
|30435 Road 68
|Diamond Jim's Casino
|118 20th St. W.
|Empire Sportsmen's Assoc.
|5001 McHenry Avenue
|Golden West Casino
|1001 South Union Ave.
|Hawaiian Gardens Casino
|11871 East Carson St.
|Hollywood Park Casino
|3883 West Century Blvd.
|1000 W. Redondo Beach Blvd.
|King's Card Club
|6111 West Ln. #103
|175 East Antelope Ave.
|Lake Elsinore Hotel and Casino
|20930 Malaga Rd.
|Larry Flynt's Lucky Lady Casino
|1045 Rosecrans Ave.
|Lucky Lady Card Room
|5526 El Cajon Blvd.
|204 Carmel Ave.
|Oasis Card Room
|117 E. Ridgecrest Boulevard #A
|Ocean's Eleven Casino
|121 Brooks St.
|Old Cayucos Tavern
|130 N. Ocean Ave.
|Outlaws Card Parlour
|9850 E. Front St.
|Parkwest Casino Lodi
|1800 South Cherokee Ln.
|Paso Robles Central Coast Casino
|1144 Black Oak Dr.
|6580 Auto Center Dr.
|Poker Flats Casino
|1714 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
|Seven Mile Casino
|285 Bay Blvd.
|775 West Clover Rd.
|Turlock Poker Room
|2321 West Main St.
|6111 West Ln. #103
Southern California Racetracks
There’s a particularly rich history with California horse race betting. There were even a few tracks open before full legalization in 1933. Horse race betting became legal when tracks came to a pari-mutuel business model, meaning that players wager against one another. The tracks themselves make a profit by taking a small cut of overall pools.
Where once there were many more racetracks throughout the state, now there are only four major racetracks at which major derbies and other races are held. However, Southern California arguably has the better part of this deal, as three of the four major tracks are located in the southern half of the state. This means horse racing enthusiasts have options within driving distance of one another, plus access to some of the best horse racing facilities in the state.
The legal gambling age in California is 18, so 18-year-olds can bet on horse races.
Best Southern California Horse Racetracks
Below are the best (and only) licensed Southern California horse racetracks around:
Santa Anita Park
Santa Anita Park opened in 1907 and has played host to major racing legends including Seabiscuit. The 1-mile natural dirt track and 9/1o of a mile turf course holds races through the early fall, winter, and spring seasons. It will host the prestigious Breeders’ Cup in 2023.
More interestingly, the park is home to hillside turf course (one of the few you can find in the entire country). In 2007, the park also introduced a new cushion track with synthetic elements mixed with dirt. Tons of excellent facilities and amenities make it a great place to watch races for enthusiasts and tourists alike.
Del Mar Thoroughbred Club
Also called the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Del Mark Racetrack was built in 1936. It now has a mile-long course and has been the site of many high-stakes races, like the Pacific Classic Stakes in the 1990s. The turf course was widened in 2014 and the main track was renovated for added cushioning for the horses’ safety.
Tons of graded events are held every year, and the overall Fairgrounds host plenty of other entertainment venues and activities like a hat contest, Friday night concerts, and “Family Fun” days.
Los Alamitos Race Course
Los Alamitos Race Course hosts both thoroughbred and quarter horse races. It also provides high-stakes quarter horse races with purses totaling over $1 million. Legally opened in 1951, it’s one of the most modern racetracks in existence.
It doesn’t host as many graded events as the other tracks, but its proximity to Los Angeles makes it a popular tourist destination and a great place for horse racing enthusiasts to stop by while touring LA.
Southern California Gambling FAQs
No casinos in California offer standard craps or roulette, as they’re illegal in California and not included in the tribal-state gaming compacts that govern what’s allowed at the state’s 66 Indian casinos. To get around that, California Indian casinos created a version of craps gamblers play using cards instead of dice. Many California casinos that have table games will offer this version of craps.
There are 31 Indian casinos, 35 card rooms (for poker and card table games), and one Class II gaming casino in Southern California.
It’s mostly because many famous Californian cities are located in the southern half of the state. Los Angeles and San Diego are just two of the biggest metropolitan areas in California, so they’re naturally good places for gambling sites to stake a claim.
Technically, the California legal gambling age is 18 years old. However, you need to be 21 years old to enter many Indian casinos because of alcohol restrictions.
No. Sports betting isn’t legal in California. The soonest it could be is 2025, if a sports betting ballot measure gets passed in the 2024 election.
Not really, with the exception of daily fantasy sports, online horse race betting, and promotional sweepstakes casinos and poker.
Most are regulated by California state gambling authorities, although tribal activities are regulated by the NIGC.