According to PC 332, you commit gambling fraud, also known as gaming fraud, if you fraudulently obtain another person's money or property through gambling. There are various forms of gambling, including tricks or card games like three-card Monte. You may illegally acquire money through betting or pretensions to fortune-telling. It is important to note that California law does not entirely prohibit gambling. Instead, the law is against using stacked decks, card tricks, and other schemes, which aim at tricking people into betting. Gaming fraud is a severe criminal offense in California with detrimental consequences. If you are facing gaming fraud charges in San Diego, the San Diego Criminal Attorney can help you come up with a proper defense.  

Gambling in California

The alternative game for gambling is gaming. The terms gambling and gaming may be used synonymously, and the terms may mean different things. The meaning of the words depends on the country of application. Typically, gaming entails playing games for wagers and may include roulette, card games, slot machines, and craps. Gambling may consist of the games mentioned earlier but may also include additional activities like sports wagers.  

There are numerous definitions of gambling. However, for an activity to qualify as gambling, it must entail wagering or bet on an outcome. The outcome should be partially or wholly based on chance, and the players should participate in the game to win something. 

Placing a Bet

Most people associate gambling with betting money while expecting to win something. However, courts in California have ruled that gambling may occur whenever someone makes a bet using something of value. The item of value, which you may use while gambling, is known as a consideration. A consideration may comprise of any item of value. It does not matter whether the item has a high value or low value. As long as the item is worth something, it qualifies as a consideration. 

Element of Chance

The state gambling laws are against games, wagers, and bets that are partially or wholly dependent on some element of chance. The state does not consider any game that awards winners based on results based on skill. For instance, you cannot face gambling fraud charges for participating in a shooting competition or car race and winning a prize.  

However, even if the California gambling laws are not against games that require skills, other laws and restrictions may apply while determining the legality of these games.  When distinguishing between a game of chance and a game of skill, the point of consideration is on the element that has an impact on the outcome.  If the result of a game mainly depends on chance, you would be gambling if you made wagers or bets on such a game.  

The courts have maintained that if a game entails both skill and chance, the game does not necessarily qualify as a game of skill. This case mainly applies where a small group of experts routinely win.  The courts often consider an average player when classifying a game as a game of chance or a game of skill. If the average player's chance of winning depends on chance, then it is a game of chance. 

A Chance/Likelihood of Winning Something of Value

You are not gambling if you do not have a likelihood of winning something of value. For an activity to qualify as gambling, there must be a chance of winning something of value after placing your bet. For instance, you may have a chance of winning money, a property, or an opportunity to continue gambling. 

The law outlines that for you to face gambling fraud charges, you do not require to have personally placed a wager.  As long as you are participating in gaming with a group of people who have placed bets and have a chance of winning, you are also gambling.  As long as you are part of such a group and you have a chance of winning, you may face gambling charges. 

Making Profits in Gambling

There are several ways of making profits while gambling.  The players may make profits by placing bets and winning. However, other than the players, the business responsible for running or operating the gambling operations also makes profits.  In some states, social gambling, which does not entail making profits, may be allowable.  However, many states often prohibit gambling as a business. Business gambling occurs when an organization or a person operates a gambling hall and takes a portion of the amount the players bet or collects some fees.  

You may engage in illegal gambling if you organize a casino party, and you charge an entry fee to the attendants.  Most social gambling where they are all equals, and no person is collecting fees or making a profit from the outcome of the game, are often legal.  

Legal and Illegal Gambling

Some people consider gambling a vice or a sinful activity that corrupts society. Other people view gambling as a harmless form of entertainment.  Therefore, people have contrasting views on gambling, and the California gambling laws help to distinguish between legal and illegal gambling.  

The state of California heavily regulates gambling mainly because of the concerns about criminal involvement. Gambling is often a target for criminals due to the massive amounts of money involved. Only limited types of games are legal in California.  Some forms of gambling, including legalized casino gambling, rose out of the desire for economic stimulus. The state lotteries in California are a money-generating tool for the state.  

Illegal Gaming

In California, some forms of gambling are illegal. The state regulates all forms of gambling, ranging from slot machines to horse-racing.  It is particularly prohibited to play, deal, or conduct certain games in California. Some of the illegal gaming activities in California include Monte, Roulette, Faro, Tan, Fan-tan, Rondo, Rouge et Noire, and Lansquenet. 

It is also illegal to engage in gaming activities like Seven-and-a-half, Hokey-pokey, Twenty-one, and percentage or banking games played with dice or cards.  

Recognized Gambling in California

The state of California recognizes and legalizes certain forms of gambling.  Some of the accepted forms of gaming in California include:

State Lottery

The State of California is in charge of the California lottery.  The state manages and regulates the lottery, and many people often take part in the lottery. The state lottery features several games, including the SuperLotto Plus and Mega Millions. 

Lotteries have a long tradition in California. In the past, lotteries came in handy in raising money to support the first North American colonies. 

Charitable Gambling

Charitable gambling is legal in California. This includes games like bingo whose financial proceeds go to a charity. In most cases, charities host the games. It is important to note that bingo is the only charitable game allowable by the State of California.

Charitable gambling is mainly run for the benefit of non-profit organizations. However, non-profit organizations may not always be the operator of charitable games. Some of the non-charitable gambling include church raffles and Monte Carlo nights.  The most popular form of a charitable game, which is legal in California, is bingo. 

Despite the nonprofit nature of charitable gaming, it still faces immense criticism in California.  Charitable gambling is the least regulated form of gambling in California. Because of the minimal regulation, cases of theft, fraud, cheating, and accounting irregularities are common in charitable gambling. Due to the vast sums of money generated by bingo, charitable organizations often fall victim to robbers. 

Mutual Betting

Mutual betting, also known as  Parimutuel betting, refers to a form of betting in which players pool their bets together. Therefore, the players play against one another instead of playing against the house. Upon deducting taxes and the management fees, the winning players share the rest of the proceeds amongst themselves. The state of California only allows mutual betting or parimutuel betting in the context of horse racing. 

In pari-mutuel wagering, the prize pool depends on the amount of money wagered. The more the money gambled, the more valuable the prize.  With the myriad of new forms and types of gambling, pari-mutuel gambling is slowly declining.  The decline of pari-mutuel wagering is as a result of the complicated nature of the sports involved. For instance, many people in California may prefer simpler gambling activities to horse racing.  

Indian Casinos

These casinos mainly resemble the Las Vegas or the Vegas-style casinos. The casinos feature banked games like blackjack and poker. The casinos may also feature slot machines and bingo.  However, it is essential to note that these casinos are restricted to tribal casinos on Indian land. 

Card Clubs 

Many people refer to card clubs as casinos. However, card clubs differ from the Vegas-style casinos mainly because they charge players a fee to play. This is how the card clubs make money. In card clubs, players bet against each other instead of playing or betting against the house. 

What Should the Prosecutor Prove?

The California PC 332 outlines several elements of the crime of gambling fraud. For the prosecutor to accuse you of gambling, he/she will have to prove the several elements of the crime. First, the prosecutor has to prove that you fraudulently obtained or acquired another person's property or money.  

The prosecutor must also prove that you obtained the said money or property through gambling by participating in games like Three Card Monte.  You may also fraudulently get money through sleight of hand or trick, betting on the sides or hands of any game, and pretensions to fortune-telling. 

Acting in a fraudulent means that you acted in bad faith, it means that while gambling, you acted with dishonesty or a lack of integrity. It entails failing to follow the rules of the game or cheating.

If you engage in gambling activities like playing card games with other people and win money from them without using trickery or cheating them, you are not guilty under PC 332. For you to face gambling fraud charges, you have to win money, property, or another item of value from another person. The law may consider you to have won property if you win tokens or poker chips that have a monetary value.  

Free Speech and Fraudulent Fortune Telling

On top of prohibiting common forms of gambling like card games, California laws are also against engaging in fraudulent fortune-telling. It is hard to prove that a person has engaged in fraudulent fortune-telling because of the provisions of California's constitutional right to free speech.  The right to free speech may protect fortune tellers to some extent.  

When determining whether you have engaged in fraudulent fortune-telling, the prosecutor may consider several factors. The prosecutor may review whether you adhere to a religion that believes in various methods of foretelling the future. If it is evident that you follow a religion that believes in foretelling the future, you may not face charges for gambling fraud for engaging in fortune-telling. 

You may also not face gambling fraud charges if you post a sign telling customers that your work is for entertainment purposes only.

If there is any evidence that you do not believe in your predictions, or that the predictions are not in line with your religion, you may face gambling charges for engaging in fortune-telling.  If you do not believe in your predictions, it is evident that you seek to defraud unsuspecting customers.  You may, therefore, face prosecution under California law for obtaining property or money through fraud.  

The First Amendment to the United States constitution may save/protect some fortune-tellers from facing charges of obtaining money or property through gaming or card fraud.  

Consequences of Gaming Fraud in California

The penalties you face for committing gambling fraud in California will depend on the amount of money or the value of the property you fraudulently obtain from the victim. If you fraudulently obtain property worth more than $950 from another person, the crime may be a misdemeanor or a felony under California law.  If the case is a wobbler, the prosecutor will have the discretion to charge the offense as a felony or misdemeanor.  

If you use gambling fraud to obtain money or property worth $950 or less, you will face misdemeanor charges under California law.

Felony Charges

If the prosecutor charges the crime of gambling fraud as a felony, the consequences may include serving felony probation. The alternative name for felony probation is formal probation.  While you are on probation, you have to adhere to the conditions of probation.  

The court may also impose imprisonment in a county jail in California. You may serve imprisonment for sixteen months, two years, and three years. You will serve jail time following California's realignment program.  

You may also have to pay a hefty fine that does not exceed $5,000 after committing the first offense.  If you commit a second or a subsequent crime, the fines may rise to $10,000. 

Misdemeanor Charges

If the prosecutor accuses you of misdemeanor gambling fraud, the penalties may include serving misdemeanor probation, also known as summary probation. Summary probation has fewer conditions of probation than formal probation. 

You may also serve jail time of up to six months in a county jail in California if you obtain money or property worth $950 or less.  If you fraudulently earn money or property worth more than $950, you may serve jail time of up to one year in a county jail in California. 

You may also have to pay a fine not exceeding $1,000 for misdemeanor gambling fraud. 

Conditions of Probation

It is common for the court to recommend probation instead of jail time.  The court may also impose probation in addition to jail time and fines.  The typical probation period lasts for twelve months or more.  When the court recommends probation, the court may order you to do or not to do some things.  

While on probation, the court may order you to avoid gambling. If you are addicted to gambling, you may have to participate in a gambling addiction treatment program as a condition of probation.  You may also have to regularly report to a probation officer or take part in community service.

If you fail to adhere to the conditions of probation,  the court has the right to revoke your probation. If the court revokes your probation, the court may send you to jail to serve the original prison or jail time. Illegal gambling charges may pose significant penalties that may have a severe impact on your life. 

Association of Gambling with Crime

Whether in the movies or the real world, gambling and casinos always go together with criminal activities. Many people associate gambling with the criminal underworld or criminal underbelly.  You may wonder why gambling is often associated with crime.  

Many people often associate gambling with a crime because other than being an avenue for illegally defrauding people, gaming may also enhance money laundering.  When people get money from criminal activities, like the sale of drugs, theft, or extortion, they cannot go around using those funds. To avoid attracting attention from the tax authorities and the police officers, criminals often move money around to make it look like legitimate money. 

Many criminals have used casinos to clean money so that they can use the money without raising any suspicion. For this reason, strict laws regulate cash associated with gambling.

Gambling may lead to addiction, and this may, in turn, lead to an increase in crimes. With a high addiction to gambling, the addicts may turn to petty crimes like theft, embezzlement, and other criminal activities to fund their gambling habits.

It is also common for gambling to awaken a thrill in people, which may make them engage in other criminal activities. Often, some people may engage in shoplifting or other criminal activities for the thrill they get out of it. They may not steal because they require the items. The majority of them steal to satisfy the same thrill they experience while gambling.  

Fighting Gambling Fraud Charges in California

Many people may not expect an offense like fraudulently obtaining money through an exercise like cheating at cards to be dangerous. However, most people are often surprised to learn the detrimental consequences of gambling fraud. If the prosecutor accuses you of gambling fraud, it is crucial to Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you fight the charges.  

You may fight gambling fraud charges by asserting that you did not have fraudulent intent. Like other fraud offenses in California, the defendant needs to have had a fraudulent intent while committing the crime. The prosecutor has to prove that you intended to defraud someone's money or property through gambling for you to face charges.  If the prosecutor is unable to prove your fraudulent intent, you may not face charges for gambling fraud.  

If you engage in fortune-telling and the prosecutor accuses you of fraudulent fortune-telling, you may fight the charges in court. You may point out that the fortune-telling is in line with your religious belief. You could not face gambling fraud charges if you were acting within the confines of your religious beliefs. You may also point out that you were acting within your rights as provided under the First Amendment to the United States constitution.  If it is evident that you were exercising your rights of free speech, you cannot face fraud charges under California law.  

Gambling laws in California can be confusing. At times, you may not be able to draw the line between legal gambling and illegal gambling in California. For you to avoid facing gambling fraud charges, it is good to seek the guidance of an attorney. An experienced attorney can guide you on the legal and prohibited gambling activities in California. 

Find a San Diego Criminal Attorney Near Me

Any person charged with a gambling crime needs to speak to a local criminal defense attorney who fully understands the California gambling laws. An experienced attorney does not just understand the local gambling laws but also has experience in dealing with prosecutors, judges, and the California court system. If you are facing gambling fraud charges, the San Diego Criminal Attorney can help you fight the charges. Contact us at 619-880-5474 and speak to one of our expert attorneys.