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 Resort3,400 slot machines, 110 gaming tables, 50-table poker room, 270,000 square feet of gaming spaceLincoln
2. Graton Resort & Casino3,000 slot machines, 144 table games, 20-table poker room, 317,750 square feet of gaming spaceRohnert Park
3. Red Hawk Casino2,500 slot machines, 75 table games, 88,000 square feet of gaming spacePlacerville
4. Cache Creek Casino Resort2,300 slot machines, 120 table games, 74,720 square feet of gaming spaceBrooks
5. Sky River Casino2,000 slot machines, 80 table games, 12-table poker room, 110,260 square feet of gaming spaceElk Grove
6. Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino2,000 slot machines, 40 table games, 73,000 square feet of gaming spaceCoarsegold
7. Table Mountain Casino Resort2,000 slot machines, 33 table games, 140,000 square feet of gaming spaceFriant
8. Tachi Palace Casino Resort2,000 slot machines, 21 table games, 80,000 square feet of gaming spaceLemoore
9. Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort1,700 slot machines, 32 table gamesJackson
10. Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento1,500 slot machines, 55 table games, 62,000 square feet of gaming spaceWheatland

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

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.

Capitol Casino

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

Card RoomAddressCity
Artichoke Joe’s Casino659 Huntington Ave.San Bruno
Bay 101 Casino1788 N 1st St.San Jose
California Grand Casino5988 Pacheco Blvd.Pachedo
Capitol Casino411 N. 16th St.Sacramento
Casino 99175 E. 20th St.Chico
Casino Chico968 East Ave.Chico
Club Casino (Club)1885 Hilltop Dr.Redding
Casino M8trix1887 Matrix Blvd.San Jose
Club San Rafael721 Lincoln Ave.San Rafael
Garlic City Club8630 San Ysidro Ave. #100Gilroy
Limelight Card Room1014 Alhambra Blvd.Sacramento
Livermore Casino3571 1st St.Livermore
Lucky Chances Casino1700 Hillside Blvd.Colma
Magnolia House Casino11275 Folsom Blvd.Rancho Cordova
Napa Valley Casino3466 BroadwayAmerican Canyon
The Nineteenth Hole7071 Airline Hwy.Tres Pinos
Oaks Card Club4097 San Pablo Ave.Emeryville
Ocean View Casino709 Pacific Ave.Santa Cruz
Palace Card Room22821 Mission Blvd.Hayward
Parkwest Casino 580968 North Canyons Pkwy.Livermore
Parkwest Casino Cordova2801 Prospect Park Dr.Rancho Cordova
Parkwest Casino Lotus6010 Stockton Blvd.Sacramento
Parkwest Casino Sonoma5151 Montero WayPetaluma
Rogelio’s, Inc.34 Main St.Isleton
The Saloon at Stones Gambling Hall6510 Antelope Rd.Citrus Heights
The Tavern at Stones Gambling Hall6508 Antelope Rd.Citrus Heights
Towers Casino115 Bank St.Grass Valley

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

What casinos are in Northern California?

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.

What is the legal gambling age in Northern California?

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.

Why does Northern California have fewer gambling locations than Southern California?

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.

Are Northern California gambling institutions regulated differently?

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.

Can you bet on sports in Northern California?

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.

What counts as Northern California?

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.

About the Author
Northern California Gambling: Best Casinos, Card Rooms, Racetracks 1

Amber Hoffman

Amber is the Managing Editor of California Casinos. She writes for a variety of websites in diverse industries, including gaming and travel and is a fan of international football (not “soccer”) and Gaelic sports.