Penal Code 330 PC – Illegal Gambling in California


Penal Code 330 PC
is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to gamble in a “banking” or “percentage” game.

A “banking” game is one where there is a “house” or “bank” that participates in the game and

  • collects money from the losers, and
  • uses it to pay the winners.

A “percentage” game is a game of chance in which the “house” collects money calculated as a portion of bets made.

PC 330 states:

“Every person who deals, plays, or carries on…any banking or percentage game played with cards, dice, or any device, for money, and every person who plays or bets at or against any of those prohibited games, is guilty of a misdemeanor…”

Examples:

  • running poker games and collecting a fee based on the number of bets played.
  • operating a black-jack parlor and taking a percentage of overall winnings.
  • playing in games of roulette where a person acts as a “house” and takes money from the losers.

Defenses

A defendant can beat an illegal gambling charge with a good legal defense. Common defenses include:

  • no banking or percentage game,
  • unlawful search and seizure, and/or
  • charity bingo game.

Penalties

A violation of this statute is a misdemeanor. This is opposed to a felony or an infraction.

The offense is punishable by:

  • custody in county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a fine between $100 and $1,000.

A judge can award misdemeanor (or summary) probation in lieu of jail time.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

poker cards
Penal Code 330 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to gamble in a “banking” or “percentage” game.

1. When is gambling a crime?

California Penal Code 330 PC makes it a crime for a person to

  • deal,
  • play,
  • carry on,
  • open, or
  • conduct,

any “prohibited game,” whether for hire or not.1

A “prohibited game” means any game that qualifies as either:

  • a “banking” game, or
  • a “percentage” game.2

A “banking” game is one which there is a “house” or “bank” that participates in the game and

  • collects money from the losers, and
  • uses it to pay the winners.3

A “percentage game” is any game of chance in which the “house” collects money calculated as a portion of bets made or total winnings.4

California's illegal gaming statute lists a number of specific games to which it might apply. Some examples include:

  • roulette,
  • rondo, and
  • twenty-one.5

However, the law will apply to any game that is conducted as a banking or percentage game.6

Example: David is the owner of a “pai gow” parlor. This is a Chinese dominoes game that is played for cash bets. The parlor makes money by taking a percentage of the winnings of every game that is played there.

Here, David is guilty of illegal gambling. He conducts a prohibited percentage game.

2. Are there legal defenses?

A defendant can beat an illegal gambling charge with a good legal defense.

Three common defenses are:

  1. no banking or percentage game,
  2. unlawful search and seizure, and/or
  3. charity bingo game.

2.1. No banking or percentage game

330 PC only applies to gambling with respect to either banking or percentage games.

This means it is a legal defense for an accused to say that:

  • while he may have been gambling,
  • he was not doing so in a prohibited game.

Perhaps, for example, a defendant was just playing a social game of poker with friends.

2.2. Unlawful search and seizure

Authorities cannot conduct a search or take property without a valid search warrant. If no warrant, then they must have a legal excuse for not having one. If the police:

  • gather evidence from an unlawful search and seizure,
  • then that evidence can get excluded from a criminal case.

This means that any charges in the case could get reduced or even dismissed.

2.3. Charity bingo game

There is an exception to the ban on banking or percentage games for:

  • certain bingo games,
  • conducted by charitable organizations for charitable purposes.7

Note that the proceeds of these games, though, can only be used for charitable purposes.8

man behind bars
A violation of this law can result in a fine and/or jail time

3. What are the penalties for a 330 PC violation?

A violation of this statute is a misdemeanor.9

The offense is punishable by:

  • custody in county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a fine between $100 and $1,000.10

A judge can award misdemeanor (or summary) probation in lieu of jail time.

4. Are there immigration consequences?

A conviction for illegal gambling will not have any bad immigration consequences.

Some California crimes, like crimes involving moral turpitude, can result in a non-citizen being:

Gambling under PC 330, though, is not this type of crime.

5. Can a person get a conviction expunged?

An expungement is possible for persons convicted under this statute.

A defendant can get a conviction expunged if he completes either:

  • probation, or
  • his jail term (whichever is applicable).

An expungement is favorable because it removes many of the hardships associated with a conviction.

6. Does a conviction affect gun rights?

A conviction under this statute will not affect a defendant's gun rights.

Some criminal convictions will strip away a defendant's right to own or possess a gun. An example is any conviction for a felony.

Illegal gambling, though, is not one of these crimes.

7. Are there related offenses?

There are three crimes related to 330 PC unlawful gambling. These are:

  1. obtaining money by gaming fraud – PC 332,
  2. bookmaking – PC 337, and
  3. prostitution and solicitation – PC 647b.

7.1. Obtaining money by gaming fraud – PC 332

Penal Code 332 PC makes it a California theft crime for someone to fraudulently obtain someone else's money or property via:

  • card games or tricks such as “three card monte,”
  • betting or gambling, or
  • pretensions to fortune-telling.

Note that a prosecutor does not have to prove fraud under Penal Code 330.

7.2. Bookmaking – PC 337

Penal Code 337 PC makes it a crime for a person to engage in the following activities:

  • bookmaking,
  • pool-selling,
  • occupying any building, room or other enclosed space for the purpose of recording bets,
  • receiving, holding or forwarding money that is being wagered in a bet,
  • recording or registering bets.

All of these activities are associated with gambling.

7.3. Prostitution and solicitation – PC 647b

Penal Code 647b PC is California's law on prostitution and solicitation. This section makes it a misdemeanor for anyone 18 or older to:

  • pay or accept money in exchange for a sexual act (“prostitution”),
  • offer to engage in an act of prostitution ("solicitation"), or
  • agree to engage in an act of prostitution.

Sometimes establishments that offer illegal gambling are also associated with prostitution.

For additional help...

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For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

For information on gambling in Nevada and Colorado, please see our articles on:


Legal References:

  1. California Penal Code 330 PC.

  2. See Sullivan v. Fox (1987) 189 Cal.App.3d 673.

  3. See same.

  4. See same. As to slot machines, note that being house-banked is not required for a game to be an unlawful slot machine or device. See People v. Grewal (2014), 224 Cal.App.4th 527.

  5. California Penal Code 330 PC.

  6. See same.

  7. California Penal Code 326.5.

  8. See same.

  9. California Penal Code 330 PC.

  10. See same.

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