Southern California Gambling: Top Casinos, Card Rooms, Racetracks 2023

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 Casino7,000 slot machines, 150 table games, 290,000 square feet of gaming spaceHighland
2. Pechanga Resort & Casino5,400 slot machines, 152 table games, 200,000 square feet of gaming spaceTemecula
3. Morongo Casino Resort & Spa4,000 slot machines, 80 table games, 20-table poker room, 150,000 square feet of gaming spaceCabazon
4. Viejas Casino & Resort2,500 slot machines, 50 table games, 133,000 square feet of gaming spaceAlpine
5. Sycuan Casino & Resort2,300 slot machines, 53 table games, 15-table poker room, 90,000 square feet of gaming spaceEl Cajon
6. Chumash Casino Resort2,300 slot machines, 45 table games, 11-table poker room, 115,000 square feet of gaming spaceSanta Ynez
7. Barona Resort & Casino2,200 slot machines, 75 table games, 340,000 square feet of gaming spaceLakeside
8. Pala Casino Resort & Spa2,000 slot machines, 61 gaming tables, 86,000 square feet of gaming spacePala
9. Soboba Casino Resort2,000 slot machines, 35 table games, 90,000 square feet of gaming spaceSan Jacinto
10. Spotlight 29 Casino2,000 slot machines, 22 table games, 80,000 square feet of gaming spaceCoachella

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

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

Card RoomAddressCity
500 Club Casino771 West Shaw Ave.Clovis
Aviator1225 Airport Dr.Delano
Banker’s Casino111 Monterey St.Salinas
Bicycle Hotel and Casino888 Bicycle Casino Dr.Bell Gardens
Casino Merced1459 Martin Luther King Jr. Way #5Merced
Casino Real1355 North Main St.Manteca
Central Coast Casino359 West Grand Ave.Grover Beach
Club One Casino, Inc.1033 Van Ness AveFresno
Commerce Casino131 Telegraph Rd.Commerce
Crystal Casino123 East Artesia Blvd.Compton
Deuce Lounge & Casino30435 Road 68Visalia
Diamond Jim’s Casino118 20th St. W.Rosamond
Empire Sportsmen’s Assoc.5001 McHenry AvenueModesto
Golden West Casino1001 South Union Ave.Bakersfield
Hawaiian Gardens Casino11871 East Carson St.Hawaiian Gardens
Hollywood Park Casino3883 West Century Blvd.Inglewood
Hustler Casino1000 W. Redondo Beach Blvd.Gardena
King’s Card Club6111 West Ln. #103Stockton
La Fuerza175 East Antelope Ave.Woodlake
Lake Elsinore Hotel and Casino20930 Malaga Rd.Lake Elsinore
Larry Flynt’s Lucky Lady Casino1045 Rosecrans Ave.Gardena
Lucky Lady Card Room5526 El Cajon Blvd.San Diego
Marina Club204 Carmel Ave.Marina
Oasis Card Room117 E. Ridgecrest Boulevard #ARidgecrest
Ocean’s Eleven Casino121 Brooks St.Oceanside
Old Cayucos Tavern130 N. Ocean Ave.Cayucos
Outlaws Card Parlour9850 E. Front St.Atascadero
Parkwest Casino Lodi1800 South Cherokee Ln.Lodi
Paso Robles Central Coast Casino1144 Black Oak Dr.Paso Robles
Player’s Casino6580 Auto Center Dr.Ventura
Poker Flats Casino1714 Martin Luther King Jr. WayMerced
Seven Mile Casino285 Bay Blvd.Chula Vista
Star’s Casino775 West Clover Rd.Tracy
Turlock Poker Room2321 West Main St.Turlock
Westlane6111 West Ln. #103Stockton

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

What casinos have craps in Southern California?

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.

How many casinos are there in Southern California?

There are 31 Indian casinos, 35 card rooms (for poker and card table games), and one Class II gaming casino in Southern California.

Why is there so much gambling 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.

How old do you have to be to gamble at Southern California locations?

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.

Can you find sports betting in Southern California?

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.

Is online gambling legal in California?

Not really, with the exception of daily fantasy sports, online horse race betting, and promotional sweepstakes casinos and poker. 

How are Southern California gambling activities regulated?

Most are regulated by California state gambling authorities, although tribal activities are regulated by the NIGC.

About the Author
Southern California Gambling: Top Casinos, Card Rooms, Racetracks 2023 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.