You might get charges under California PC 332 if you commit gambling fraud or gaming fraud. Upon committing a gambling/gaming fraud, the court might charge you with California theft crime for using fraudulent means to obtain or acquire another person's property or money. You might commit gambling/gaming fraud in California through various methods. For instance, you might use tricks and cards, also known as three card Monte, to trick another person. You might trick a person and take their money through betting and gambling. It is also illegal to use pretensions to fortune telling to trick other individuals. Gambling/gaming fraud is a serious crime under California law, and the associated consequences may be detrimental. If you are facing gambling charges in California, San Jose Criminal Attorney Law Firm can help you come up with a good defense. 

Definition of Gambling/Gaming fraud under California Law

California law defines gambling as using fraudulent means to obtain money or property from another individual. You might fraudulently get money or property from other individuals using games like three card Monte or using pretensions to fortune-telling. You might also use a device, trick, sleight of hand, or bet on the sides or hands to obtain money from another person. It is important to note that California law does not prohibit all forms of gambling of bookmarking. The California PC 330 addresses issues relating to gambling law while the California bookmaking law under PC 337a addresses matters about bookmarking.

The law prohibits explicitly using gambling to trick people into betting on a "sure thing" and other similar activities.  If you fraudulently obtain money through gambling, you might get related charges for the crime of petty theft or grand theft in California. The penalties you face will depend on several factors, including the value of property or money you obtain through fraudulent gambling. 

Forms of Gambling in California

Gambling refers to participation in gaming, betting, and lottery activities. In California, betting and gaming activities fall under two categories: licensed and unlicensed. Licensing helps to distinguish between legal and illegal gambling. In California, gambling activities fall under several categories:

Gaming Machines

Gaming machines are leading gambling platforms. Some of the leading examples of gaming machines include slot, jackpot, and fruit machines. Some gaming platforms like domestic computers and dual-use consoles do not qualify as gaming machines in the context of California gambling. Gaming activities take different forms, including horse racing, card games, and slot machines.

 The State of California regulates all forms of gambling activities. Not all forms of gambling are illegal in California. However, some games like Monte Faro, Hokey-pokey, Fan-tan, Rondo, and Seven-and-a-half are unlawful in California. It is also against the law to play Roulette, Rouge et Noire, Tan, Lansquenet, or any Banking and percentage games where you play with cards or dice.


Casinos are also popular gambling platforms in California. You might play casino games online or in casino premises. The main games that you can play in casinos include Baccarat, Poker, Blackjack, gaming machines, and American Roulette. 


Lotteries are also common forms of gambling in California. Individuals often engage in different lotteries, including sweepstakes, raffles, and tombola. The State of California organizes and manages a license State Lottery. For you to participate in the State Lottery or any other form of lottery in California, you have to be above 18 years. If you participate in a lottery and you are below 18 years, you might get misdemeanor charges under California law. 


Betting is also a common form of gambling in California. It involves placing a stake and expecting a particular outcome. There are many forms of betting, including spread betting, fixed odds betting, and pool betting.  The most common type of betting is the fixed odds betting. In this form of betting, some predetermined odds will determine your winnings. You might play the fixed odds betting online, in betting shops, or on racing tracks. You might also take part in pool betting where your winnings will depend on total stakes in the pool. You might participate in pool betting for racecourse pool betting, fantasy football pool betting, and sports pool betting.


If you are seeking amusement for you and your family, you might take part in arcade games.  For a person to operate Adult Arcade Centers, you will require a permit or a license from the local Gaming or Gambling Commission.  The Adult Arcade Centers also go by the name Adult Gaming Centers. There are strict restrictions for Adult Gaming Centers, and no person below the age of 18 years should participate in the games.  Family Arcade Centers may be either licensed or unlicensed.

Acting Fraudulently in Gambling

For you to be guilty of gambling/gaming fraud, you must have fraudulently used gambling to trick another person and obtain money or property from him or her. In the context of California law, acting fraudulently means that you acted with dishonesty or in bad faith. It refers to a lack of integrity or acting in moral turpitude.   Acting fraudulently means failing to play by the rules of the game or that you fraudulently cheat other individuals. You might not be guilty of the crime of gambling/gaming fraud if you play card games with other persons and win money from them as long as you do not cheat them or use tricks.

Another critical element for facing charges for gambling/gaming fraud is using the game to win money or property from another person. There are many forms of property, including tokens, poker chips, or any other item with monetary value.

Illegal Gambling

In the past, gambling used to be a crime in almost every state in the U.S. Today, more and more states have recognized and legalized some forms of gambling. While states have legalized some forms of gambling, other forms have remained illegal. In every state in the U.S, some laws prohibit at least several forms of gambling. You might also refer to gambling as gaming, depending on the language of the state. Depending on the state you live in, you might use the terms gaming and gambling synonymously. There are numerous definitions of gambling. Gambling entails wagering or betting on an outcome based on chance, and people engage in gambling to win something. Any form of gambling is automatically illegal as long as the law prohibits it. 

Gambling Involves Betting on an Item of Value

In most instances of betting, people bet money and often hope to win more money or property. Many people assume that gambling revolves around placing money as a stake. However, gambling may occur whenever you make a bet using any item of value. The item of value you use in gambling at times goes with the name consideration. Consideration refers to any item that has some worth. The value of the item does not matter as long as the item you place as a stake in the game has some value, no matter how small.

Illegal Games of Chance

According to the state gambling laws, it is illegal to participate in bets, wagers, or games that are fully or partially dependent on some elements of chance. You might not face charges for gambling/gaming fraud if you participate in a game that relies on skills instead of chance. Games that rely on skills rather than chance include participating in a car race or a shooting competition. A game of skill may not qualify as gambling. However, other laws and restrictions may apply to make games of skill legal.

The main difference between a game of chance and a game of skill is the element with the greatest impact on the outcome of the game. If the outcome of the game is greatly dependent on chance, then it is a game of chance. On the other hand, if the game greatly relies on both skill and chance and often a small group of skilled experts routinely win, this may not qualify as a game of skill. When defining a game of skill, the courts consider an average player. If chance dominates the likelihood of an average player's winnings, then it is a game of chance even if the game may require some skills to play.

Gambling must Entail a Chance of Winning

If you participate in a game and you do not have a chance of winning something, then you are not gambling.  While you are gambling, you must have a chance of winning something of value. The item of value may consist of money, property, or more chances of playing. According to the rulings by courts in California, to face gambling charges, you do not need to have placed any wager.  If you are in a group of people participating in-game and they have a chance to win, you are also gambling. You might not have placed a wager, but as long as the other persons have placed a wager, you might get gambling charges. 

Who Can Get Charges for Gambling/Gaming fraud?

The law prohibits using fraudulent gambling to make some money or any form of gain. If you win at gambling, you will have made a profit. However, other than the layers who trick other persons through gambling, the providers of gambling platforms may also be liable. The businesses that run and operate gambling games and establishments may also face charges.  You might be guilty of operating a gambling business if you operate a gambling hall that collects fees or takes a portion of the amount the players bet.

You might get illegal gambling charges if you organize a casino night or party, and you charge an entry fee to the participants. You will be engaging in illegal activity, especially if the state is against business gambling or gambling for profit. You might not face charges for illegal gambling if you organize social gambling.  A social gambling scenario may entail a scenario where all the players are equal, and no person is collecting a profit from the outcome of the game. In a social gathering scenario, no party should be charging participants a fee to take part in the game. 

Fraudulent Fortune Telling and Free Speech in California

California gaming law prohibits fraudulent fortune-telling in addition to card games and other common forms of gambling. The right to free speech, as outlined in the constitution contradicts with the law against fortune-telling and free speech.  Given that the law protects free speech in California, it becomes tricky to identify and prosecute cases of free speech and fortune-telling. There is a main distinguishing factor between legal fortune-telling and illegal fortune-telling.  

Whether fortune telling for money is legal or not depends on several factors. First,  it depends on whether the astrologer or the fortune teller follows or adheres to a religion that believes in various methods of foretelling the future. If you are a member of a religion that believes in foretelling the future, you might not face charges for accepting money to read fortunes. You might also not be guilty if you put up a post telling people that your fortune-telling is for entertainment only. 

However, you might get charges if there is evidence that you do not believe in your predictions.  If it is evident that you are only seeking to defraud innocent customers, you might get charges under California law.  You might get charges under California law for obtaining money through gaming fraud.

Many cities in California have strict psychic rules. Some of the activities that may qualify as fortune-telling include telepathy, curse lifting, palmistry, crystal gazing, astrology, and tarot card reading. Other forms of fortune-telling may include phrenology, clairvoyance, and cartomancy.  If you are a legalized fortune teller, you must obtain a legal permit. While applying for a fortune-telling permit, the authorities may conduct a background search on you. Other vetting methods for fortune tellers include fingerprinting and public hearings. Due to the strict background checks, repeat offenders may not be able to get permits for fortune telling in California.  

Penalties for Gambling/Gaming fraud in California

The penalties you face for gambling/gaming fraud in California will depend on various factors, including the value of property or money that you acquire from the fraud victim. Your offense will be a wobbler under California law if you defraud the victim money or property that exceeds $950. The court might choose to charge the offense as a felony or a misdemeanor.

If you defraud the victim money or property that is not exceeding $950 through fraudulent gambling, you will face misdemeanor charges under California law. 

Misdemeanor Gambling/Gaming fraud

If the prosecutor charges you with misdemeanor gambling/gaming fraud, the penalties may include serving jail time. The period you spend in jail will depend on the amount of money or the value of the property you illegally obtained from the victim. If you obtained money or property not exceeding $950, the applicable penalties include serving jail time of up to six months in a California county jail. You might serve jail time of up to 1 year if the money or the property involved exceeds $950. The court may also order you to pay a fine not exceeding $1,000.

You might also have to serve misdemeanor probation. The alternative names for misdemeanor probation are informal probation or summary probation.  The court may recommend probation instead of jail time. You might be subject to the terms of probation, including performing community service and restituting the victim. If you fail to honor the terms of probation, the court may cancel the probation and recommend jail time. 

Felony Gambling/Gaming fraud

If the prosecutor charges you with felony gambling/gaming fraud, the charges involved include jail time. The period of imprisonment may vary depending on the offense and the discretion of the court. You might serve imprisonment of 16 months, two years, or three years in county jail. This is following California's realignment program. 

The court may also require you to pay a hefty penalty of up to $5,000 for committing a first-time offense. If you commit a second or a subsequent felony offense, the court may require you to pay an even bigger penalty of up to $10,000. 

You might also have to serve a felony or formal probation. The probation may have stricter terms than misdemeanor probation.  For instance, while on probation, you might have to file a regular report at the probation office. You might also have to meet regularly with the probation officer. The court may require you to take part in community service while on probation. You might also have to pay restitution to the victim. Restitution entails reimbursing the victim for the losses the victim may have suffered due to your actions. 

The prosecutor decides the direction of the case in most cases by charging the case as a felony or misdemeanor.  Even if the prosecutor presents a case as a misdemeanor, the judge has the right to use his discretion and charge the case as a felony and vice versa.  After a conviction of felony gambling/gaming fraud, you might petition the court's decision to seek a reduction of your felony conviction to a misdemeanor conviction. You would have to do this with the help of an experienced attorney. 

Committing gambling or gaming fraud may have adverse effects on your immigration status.  If you are not a U.S citizen, you might get deportation upon committing a gambling/gaming fraud.  A conviction for gambling/gaming fraud may also have adverse effects on your ability to obtain professional or occupational permits in California. You might not be able to apply for permanent residency in the U.S. In some cases, you might fight gambling charges in court with the help of an attorney, and as a result, the court may dismiss your charges.  In California, gaming fraud does not qualify as a violent crime. It does not also qualify as a severe felony offense that may lead to a strike on your record, according to California Three Strikes Law.

Common Legal Defenses for Gambling/Gaming Fraud in California

Fraud cases are very complex, and the prosecutor has to gather a lot of evidence to support any given fraud case.  You might win a fraud case because of the ideas presented by the court might differ from what qualifies as a fraud. It is all a matter of perspective.  All you need is to convince the court that your actions do not qualify as fraud. The complexity of fraud cases allows you and your attorney to challenge the evidence of the prosecutor.

You can fight gambling or charges for gambling/gaming fraud by asserting that you did not participate in fraudulent activities at all. If the prosecutor does to have enough evidence against you, he/she may not be able to prove that you participated in illegal gambling. For instance, it is hard for the prosecutor to prove that you wagered a particular stake in favor or a particular result unless the bet was recorded.  It is hard for the prosecutor to trace cash transactions in the case of fortune-telling. You might assert that you did not receive any money from another person to tell him or her about the future. 

You might also assert that you did not have fraudulent intent. The prosecutor cannot accuse you of gambling/gaming fraud if it is evident that you did not have fraudulent intent. With the help of an attorney, you can assert that you had no intent to defraud because this would help you evade the hefty charges. 

If you get fraud charges after committing gaming or a gambling/gaming fraud, you might assert that your conduct falls under the protection of the First Amendment to the U.S Constitution. This means that you are expressing your right to free speech. You might also assert that you are a member of a church that believes in telling the future.  If fortune-telling is part of your religion, and you believe in its outcome, the prosecutor will have no grounds of accusing you of gambling/gaming fraud. 

Find a San Jose Criminal Attorney Near Me

It is important to contact a criminal attorney immediately after facing charges for gambling/gaming fraud. This will give the attorney ample time to gather facts about your case. The attorney will also take time to come up with proper defense strategies. If you are facing charges for gambling/gaming fraud in California, San Jose Criminal Attorney Law Firm can assist. Contact us at 408-622-0204 and speak to one of our attorneys.