Northern California Gambling: Best Casinos, Card Rooms, Racetracks
California is a state with mixed gambling history. These days, it technically allows all types of gambling in one form or another. However, the specifics of where and how you can enjoy these activities are heavily dependent on location and regulations. For instance, real-money casino games are only legal at Indian casinos rather than resorts on state land.
An important note: Be aware that California sports betting isn’t legal, so these Indian casinos don’t have retail sportsbooks.
Below we will break down the types of gambling you can enjoy in Northern California.
Northern California Indian Casinos
Indian casinos in California are currently legal because reservations technically aren’t California land, so Indian casinos aren’t subject to the state’s anti-gambling legislation. At the time of writing, 66 tribal casinos operate in California. Combined, they produce over $9 billion in revenue every year.
Additionally, California also has tribal-state gaming compacts with 12 other tribes, so more casinos are on the way.
These casinos offer slot machines, poker, bingo, Keno, and many table games, including blackjack, video poker, and baccarat. Gambling activities are either regulated by the National Indian Gaming Commission or state authorities.
Because tribal casinos draw so much revenue, casinos often feature distinct themes or special attractions or casino resorts. Northern California Indian casinos are largely positioned around Sacramento or the Bay Area, although a few stretch a little farther north.
Be advised that you need to be 21 years old to enter most of the top Northern California tribal casinos. This is despite the fact that the legal gambling age in California is 18 years old. Many casinos require you to be 21 since they serve alcohol on their premises. However, there are eight 18+ casinos in Northern California.
Top Northern California Indian Casinos
Some of the best Northern California tribal casinos include:
Thunder Valley Casino Resort
Thunder Valley Casino Resort is just outside Sacramento and is one of the largest resorts in the entire state, featuring over 145,000 square feet of gaming space. It offers 3,400 slot machines and over 100 gaming tables plus options for bingo and live poker. Its hotel contains 400 rooms as well as a fine selection of excellent restaurants and other amenities. The casino is open 24 hours daily.
Cache Creek Casino Resort
Cache Creek Casino Resort is located 37 miles northwest of Sacramento. It features 2,300 slot machines, 120 table games, and a 74,720-square-foot gambling floor. Beyond gaming options, Cache Creek also offers a golf course, day spa, plenty of dining options, and a 200-room hotel. Cache Creek has its own mobile app, too, which you can download on iOS and Android devices.
Bear River Casino & Resort
Just 15 miles south of Eureka in Humboldt County, Bear River Casino & Resort packs a lot of punch into a smaller casino resort. It features 349 slot machines, 15 table games (including blackjack and Texas hold’em), the Grizzly Bear’s Den poker room with Saturday tournaments, and 13,056 square feet of gaming space. There’s also a 105-room hotel and a small slots casino/gas station next to the property.
Table Mountain Casino Resort
Table Mountain Casino Resort is located north of Fresno. It recently opened, replacing the old Table Mountain Casino that’s still just 900 feet down the road. The new facility features 2,000 slot machines, 33 table games, and a high-limit room, as well as a 12-story hotel with 171 rooms. Although it is in the process of acquiring a liquor license, California Casinos was told there are no plans to change Table Mountain’s 18+ age limit.
Blue Lake Casino & Hotel
Just 16 miles northeast of Eureka and 135 miles south of the Oregon border, Blue Lake Casino & Hotel is a 24/7 hot spot for gamblers with 750 slot machines, bingo, and 16 table games, including blackjack, Spanish 21, Lucky Ladies, and more. There’s also three restaurants and the Wave Lounge, which features live music, as well as a 182-room hotel and three-day RV parking.
Tachi Palace Casino Resort
This resort draws customers from all across the state, thanks to its expansive space and 45,000 square-foot concert venue. As a result, it’s a frequent location for entertainment tours and activities beyond regular gambling experiences. It also offers over 2,000 slot machines and a seven-table poker room. Other features include a 255-room hotel and spa along with nine restaurants for a variety of dining opportunities.
Biggest Casinos in Northern 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. Thunder Valley Casino Resort
|3,400 slot machines, 110 gaming tables, 50-table poker room, 270,000 square feet of gaming space
|2. Graton Resort & Casino
|3,000 slot machines, 144 table games, 20-table poker room, 317,750 square feet of gaming space
|3. Red Hawk Casino
|2,500 slot machines, 75 table games, 88,000 square feet of gaming space
|4. Cache Creek Casino Resort
|2,300 slot machines, 120 table games, 74,720 square feet of gaming space
|5. Sky River Casino
|2,000 slot machines, 80 table games, 12-table poker room, 110,260 square feet of gaming space
|6. Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino
|2,000 slot machines, 40 table games, 73,000 square feet of gaming space
|7. Table Mountain Casino Resort
|2,000 slot machines, 33 table games, 140,000 square feet of gaming space
|8. Tachi Palace Casino Resort
|2,000 slot machines, 21 table games, 80,000 square feet of gaming space
|9. Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort
|1,700 slot machines, 32 table games
|10. Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento
|1,500 slot machines, 55 table games, 62,000 square feet of gaming space
Northern California Card Rooms
California offers some of the best card rooms in the entire country. California card rooms are legal because they have players bet against one another instead of the house. The card rooms themselves make their profit by charging players small fees to enter games. Dealers rotate with every hand.
Most California card rooms include staple poker varieties like Texas hold’em and seven-card stud, although you can also find additional games depending on the location. Additionally, most California card rooms offer banked games such as blackjack via third-party vendors.
Many of the best card rooms in the state also offer tons of California poker tournaments for both beginners and experts. This draws plenty of traffic, especially at more popular card rooms. Tournament buy-ins and pools can range from the tens of dollars up to the hundreds or thousands of dollars.
All players need to be 18 years old to legally gamble in a California card room. However, because they serve alcohol, card rooms almost always set their age limits to 21.
Best Card Rooms in Northern California
Although 84 card rooms have licenses in California, there are only 59 card rooms currently operating. And 24 of those are in Northern California. Here are some of the best you can find:
Bay 101 Casino
Bay 101 Casino is located at the south end of the San Francisco Bay in San Jose. It’s a great choice thanks to its proximity to the San Jose airport, making it a prime stopover destination for travelers who get a poker itch. It offers a variety of poker games and tournaments, and frequently draws experienced crowds to offer moderate-to-high-skill poker action.
Casino M8trix is also located in San Jose, just down the street from Bay 101. Casino M8trix is on the sixth and seventh floors of its high-rise building. It offers 14 different poker games on 49 tables, with more than 30,000 square feet and more than 100 TVs. There’s also two restaurants, a bar, and a lounge, as well as Casino M8trix Card Academy to teach novices how to play poker.
California Grand Casino
This casino is actually the oldest continually operating poker room in the world, as it’s been offering poker since 1854. It served as a stagecoach and Pony Express stop before becoming an explicit casino. Weekly tournaments and Cal Games are included, like blackjack, pai gow, and three-card poker for even more variety. The casino was moved into a new and modern building in 2009, so it offers fresh amenities and plenty of creature comforts.
This casino is a relatively simplistic entertainment venue without a lot of bells and whistles, but it offers plenty of excellent poker action. It also offers excellent restaurant and bar options, so it’s a good place for general entertainment and enjoyment. It draws crowds from all over the Sacramento area and offers daily and weekly tournaments.
List of Northern California Card Rooms
|Artichoke Joe’s Casino
|659 Huntington Ave.
|Bay 101 Casino
|1788 N 1st St.
|California Grand Casino
|5988 Pacheco Blvd.
|411 N. 16th St.
|175 E. 20th St.
|968 East Ave.
|Club Casino (Club)
|1885 Hilltop Dr.
|1887 Matrix Blvd.
|Club San Rafael
|721 Lincoln Ave.
|Garlic City Club
|8630 San Ysidro Ave. #100
|Limelight Card Room
|1014 Alhambra Blvd.
|3571 1st St.
|Lucky Chances Casino
|1700 Hillside Blvd.
|Magnolia House Casino
|11275 Folsom Blvd.
|Napa Valley Casino
|The Nineteenth Hole
|7071 Airline Hwy.
|Oaks Card Club
|4097 San Pablo Ave.
|Ocean View Casino
|709 Pacific Ave.
|Palace Card Room
|22821 Mission Blvd.
|Parkwest Casino 580
|968 North Canyons Pkwy.
|Parkwest Casino Cordova
|2801 Prospect Park Dr.
|Parkwest Casino Lotus
|6010 Stockton Blvd.
|Parkwest Casino Sonoma
|5151 Montero Way
|34 Main St.
|The Saloon at Stones Gambling Hall
|6510 Antelope Rd.
|The Tavern at Stones Gambling Hall
|6508 Antelope Rd.
|115 Bank St.
Northern California Racetracks
Horse race betting in California is one of the few types of wagering fully legal at in-person locations and online apps. Horse racing was legalized in 1933 using a pari-mutuel model. In short, this meant that bettors wager against each other while the horse racetrack facilities take a small cut of the overall pool in order to make a profit.
Most Northern and Southern California horse racetracks emphasize thoroughbred races, although you can find quarter horse races at a few select tracks. There used to be many more tracks in general, but the overall decline in attendance and several other factors have resulted in only a few major California horse tracks remaining open today.
Those who enjoy horse betting can make straight and exotic bets depending on a track’s offerings. You’ll also be able to find 29 satellite locations that offer off-track horse race betting if you don’t want to use a mobile app. There’s only one licensed Northern California horse racetrack compared to the three you can find in the southern half of the state:
Golden Gate Fields Racetrack
Golden Gate Fields is a 140-acre horse racetrack located in Berkeley, right next to the San Francisco Bay. As a result, attendees benefit from expansive views of the local Bay Area and generally pleasant weather all year round. It’s also the only major thoroughbred racetrack in Northern California.
Golden Gate Fields features a 1-mile synthetic track and a turf course that measures 9/10 of a mile. It can fit thousands of customers and features on-site parking for visitor convenience. Horse betting enthusiasts will enjoy several graded events that are held every year, including the Berkeley Handicap, San Francisco Mile Stakes, and California Derby.
Admission is always free for children. There are plenty of comfortable facilities for both regular attendees and for those who are part of various clubs. Guests are even able to meet jockeys and see horses at the paddocks. The location is convenient since there are tons of hotels and dining options fairly nearby.
Northern California Gambling FAQs
Of the 66 Indian casinos in California, 35 are in Northern California. There are also 59 active card room casinos in California, and 24 of those are in Northern California. Finally, there are three Class II gaming casinos in Northern California, as well.
As with Southern California, it depends on the activity in question. California’s gambling age is 18. However, you have to be 21 years old to enter most Indian casinos because of alcohol restrictions.
This is largely because of the higher concentration of large metropolitan areas in the southern half of the state. Big cities like Los Angeles and San Diego have naturally drawn more gambling locations over time, making Southern California gambling a bit busier with more options.
No. State authorities and the National Indian Gaming Commission are responsible for regulating all gambling institutions in California. They hold all institutions to the same standards.
No. Sports betting in California is not legal. The earliest it could become legal is in 2025, but only if a sports betting initiative is passed in the 2024 election.
For the purpose of this article, we define Northern California as anything north of Fresno. Big metropolitan areas in Northern California include the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento.