The California PC 332 defines gambling/gaming fraud as the offense of obtaining another person's property or money by using a game, device, pretensions to fortune-telling, sleight of hand, or any other form of trickery.  According to California law, gambling fraud is a type of California theft crime. The crime may fall under petty theft or grand theft, depending on the amount of money or the value of the property involved.  The crime attracts severe criminal penalties under California law. If you are experiencing charges for illegal gaming in LA, California, The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm can help you develop a sound defense strategy.  

Legal Definition of Gambling 

In California, obtaining or acquiring money by gambling is a crime under California Penal Code 332 PC. Any acquisition of funds from another person through gambling or betting, purporting to predict the future through fortune-telling, or through tricky acts like three-card Monte or card games are considered theft.

Several types of gaming are fraudulent in California. Gambling is often a crime because gamers use fraudulent schemes to deprive participants of their money. In most cases, people engaging in gambling believe that they have a fairground for winning. Engaging or playing games like: Rondo, Tan, Roulette, percentage games played with cards or dice to name, but a few are illegal in California. As such, you might find yourself faced with gaming fraud even unknowingly. If you are experiencing gambling/gaming fraud charges, an attorney helps you put up a good defense and avoid the emotional torture that entails the legal process.

What Does Gambling Entail

Gambling entails placing money or some other property as a bet with the hope of multiplying it or winning a prize. The activity is a risky affair as the outcome of your gaming is not guaranteed, and, in most cases, participants end up losing their money. This happens because there is a more significant component of chance at play, which in many cases favors the game owner. Gambling may be of different types, from rolling dice to modern computer games in casinos; the gaming industry continues to grow.

The California laws are well stipulated regarding what is illegal gambling and gaming activities you can lawfully engage in. It is usually unlawful where the gambling activity aims at obtaining money fraudulently from the other person. Although the state organizes some lotteries, the age restriction is also considered very seriously, and one may face charges of a misdemeanor for participating in such lotteries while underage. The legal age is 18 years.

Specifically, gaming activities like Faro, Monte, Hokey-Pokey, seven-and-a-half, Fan-tan, Lansquenet are illegal. Generally, the state controls gaming activities, and it is always wise to enquire before engaging in gaming activities to avoid engaging in illegal gambling. The law on gambling keeps on changing and developing.

Legal Gaming in California

The California state allows some types of gaming, these include:

  • State Lottery – These are managed by the state and are known as the California Lottery, and include many games like Super Lotto Plus.
  • Charitable Gambling – The only game permitted in this case is Bingo. Most of the time, charities run the gambling themselves, and all the proceeds are geared to the charities.
  • Card Clubs – Players are charged a fee to play, so basically, they end up playing against themselves and not against the clubhouse, and that is permissible by law.

In the past, gambling used to be a crime in many states across the U.S. Currently, more and more states have legalized gambling. Several forms of legal gambling exist alongside some illegal types of gaming.  Some of the common types of legal gaming in California include horse racing tracks, poker rooms, and Indian casinos.  In many states across the U.S, including California, some laws prohibit certain types of gaming. 

You can define gaming/gambling in many ways. However, one common aspect of all types of gaming is that the game is based on chance.  The motivation for gambling is the likelihood to win something, and many people participate in gambling, hoping to win something.  All types of gaming have an element of wagering where the players place a stake, usually property or money. 

Gaming/Gambling involves a Bet

In most instances of gambling, players place money as a bet.  Many people tend to assume that betting can only occur when a person places money.  However, it may occur when you place any item of value.  The value of an item often goes by the name consideration.  Consideration refers to any item that has some form of value.  It does not matter the amount or the value of the item you place a bet.  As long as you place an item that has some value as a stake, the activity qualifies as gaming/gambling. 

For an activity to qualify as gambling, it must involve a chance. In a game of chance, the winnings of the players do not depend on skill but pure luck.   A game that awards users based on their skill in playing games of skill and not games of chance.  If you win in a game like a car race or a shooting competition by using skills, the activity may not qualify as gambling.  In distinguishing between a game of skill and a game of chance, the prosecutor considers the element that has the most significant impact on the outcome. Many courts in California have rules that games, which may entail both aspects of skills and chance, may not qualify as games of skills.  Courts often consider an average player with no qualifications. If the likelihood of the average player to win the game depends on chance, the game is a game of chance. 

If you participate in a game and you have no chance of winning something, the game does not qualify as gambling.

Illegal Gambling/Gaming in California

Many games of chance qualify as gaming fraud, including sports betting and online poker. Different forms of fraud may arise as you engage in gaming. Some of the common types of gaming fraud in California include match-fixing, sport-fixing, or game rigging.  A sports betting may be fraudulent if the players play the game to achieve predetermined results, thus enriching the scammers while getting money from the bookmakers. 

Betting fraud may occur if a scammer provides insider information. The scammer may promise gambling profits in exchange for fees. Gamers may also commit fraud through collusive gaming/gambling.  This is a scenario where players use poker bots or work with others to develop dishonest gaming policies. Fraud may arise if a gaming provider circumvents gambling laws.  Many gaming providers, especially providers of online gaming, face fraud charges for evading United States' antigambling laws and misleading banks into processing billions of dollars comprising of illegal betting profits. 

It is common for fraudsters in the online gaming industry to target victims with fraudulent online gaming sites. The sites aim at obtaining personal identifying information from unsuspecting gamers. The fraudsters may then use the personal information of the players to commit identity theft. Also, the fraudsters may use the personal data of the gamers to obtain confidential financial information. 

Another common form of gambling/gaming fraud in California is the foreign lottery scams. In these scams, players have to pay sums of money to get some prizes or to participate in lotteries. In the actual sense, the prizes are non-existent, and the lotteries do not exist.  The scammers may further lie to the players that they have won the plays than have to pay additional amounts of money to process payments or to pay taxes.

Specific forms of illegal gaming in California include:

1. Multiple Accounts Frauds

If you intend to take part in online gaming/gambling, you must open a user account. Gamers intending to defraud other gamers tend to open multiple user accounts.  The fraudulent players often open different user accounts with differing details to help conceal their true identity.  A gamer may face gaming fraud charges in California for opening an account with fake credentials. It is also fraudulent to use numerous gaming accounts to trick other players and deprive them of their money.

    2. Bonus Abuse

To help encourage new members to sign-up, online gaming sites offer sign-up bonuses to new members. It is common for scammers to commit gaming fraud using a sign-up bonus. Some online gambling sites are generous and offer a sign-up bonus of up to 100% of the first deposit a gamer makes. To take advantage of the sign-up bonus, some players open numerous accounts under different credentials. This way, the fraudsters can sign up on a single gaming platform using different credentials.  The fraudsters can get multiple sign-up bonuses. This helps the fraudsters to fund their gaming activities using illegal income.

    3. Chargebacks

It is common for scammers to commit gambling fraud using chargebacks. Chargebacks consist of requests generally sent to the provider of credit card or bank. The provider of credit card or the bank reverses the payments sent to the gaming company. The reversals will benefit the fraudulent gamer at the disadvantage of the gambling company.

    4. Influencing the Outcome of the Game

Gamers may commit gambling/ gaming fraud by influencing the outcome of the game. There are several ways of controlling the result of a game, including chip dumping in poker games.  The fraudulent gamer may open multiple accounts to trick other gamers in favor or him/her or favor of other players.

    5. Tricking other People to Top up your Gaming Account

Gaming is a risky game that entails placing some money at stake.  To keep participating in gambling, you must risk some money by topping up/recharging your gambling account. If you trick/woo another person or party into financing your gambling/ gaming account, you might get charges for committing gaming fraud.  The crime of top-up fraud is similar to the offense of stealing or illegally obtaining money to help fund your illegal gaming activities.  Gamers may also commit fraud by stealing credit card information and using it to support their gaming accounts. By taking credit card information, fraudsters use the income of innocent people to fund fraudulent gaming activities without the knowledge of the victims.

Elements of Gaming/Gambling Fraud

For the prosecutor to prove that you are guilty of gaming fraud, the prosecutor has to prove several elements of the crime. First, the prosecutor has to prove that you engaged in a game of chance or trickery. For instance, you might have involved in betting or gambling, pretentious fortune-telling or card games, and tricks like three-card Monte. California law is not entirely against all forms of gaming. However, the law us against using card tricks and other tricks aimed at tricking other people into betting. 

The prosecutor must also prove that you obtained another person's property or money through gaming fraud.  If you engage in gaming for fun without depriving other people of their money and property, you might not face gaming charges in California.

It must be evident that while engaging in gaming, you had fraudulent intent. Having a fraudulent plan implies acting in bad faith and dishonesty. It is a lack of integrity or moral turpitude. If you cheat and you fail to play by the rules of the game, you might get gambling charges under California law.

In the context of gambling, the property has a broad definition. To face gambling charges, you must win property or money from another person. Property may include poker chips or tokens. Any item that has a monetary value attached to it may qualify as property in the context of gambling. 

 Fraudulent Fortune Telling

It is illegal to engage in fraudulent fortune-telling in California. At times, it may be difficult to distinguish between fraudulent fortune-telling and religious fortune-telling. With the constitutional right to free speech that California dwellers enjoy, it may be hard to prosecute the offense of fraudulent fortune-telling.

In evaluating whether fortune-telling is fraudulent or not, the court considers the circumstances of your case.  If you are a fortune-teller or astrologer, and you adhere to religion and also believe in various methods of foretelling the future, you might not face fraud charges.  You might not be guilty even if you predict the future and accept money as long as you are acting within the confines of your religion.  You might also avoid fraud charges if you put up a post informing your customers that your fortune-telling is for entertainment purposes only. 

However, you might get charges for fraudulent fortune-telling if it is evident that you do not believe in your predictions.  If it is apparent that you are only seeking to defraud naïve customers, you might get gambling fraud charges for engaging in fraudulent fortune-telling.  The court may prosecute you for obtaining property or money through gambling/gaming fraud.

Consequences for Gaming Fraud in California  

The repercussions for gaming/gambling fraud in California will depend on the monetary value of the property or the amount of money you acquire from the fraud victim.  If you get property worth more than $950 from an individual using fraudulent means, the crime will be a wobbler, according to California law. If charged as a wobbler, the prosecutor might allocate felony or misdemeanor charges depending on his/her preferences. The prosecutor will also consider your criminal history.

If the money or the property you acquire from the fraud victim using gambling/gaming fraud is worth $950 or less, you will get misdemeanor charges under California law. 

If the prosecutor assigns the fraud as a felony, the consequences will include felony or formal probation. While you are on probation, you might have to meet the probation officer regularly. You might also have to visit the probation office regularly. In most cases, the court may recommend probation instead of jail time. The court may also require you to serve a minimum time in jail and then spend the rest of the period on probation. If you violate the requirements of probation, the court may suspend or revoke your probation and prescribe jail time. In addition to visiting the probation office and meeting the probation officer, other conditions of probation may include engaging in community service work. 

The other consequences for felony gambling/gaming fraud include serving jail time of sixteen months, two years, or three years in a county jail in California. The jail time is following the California realignment program. 

Other penalties for the crime include paying a hefty fine not exceeding $50,000. This amount of fine is applicable for the first offense of gambling. If you are guilty of a subsequent crime of gaming/gambling fraud, the penalty may rise to up to $10,000.  The court may also require you to pay restitution to the victim. Paying restitution entails reimbursing the victim for the amount of money he/she may have lost due to your fraudulent exercises. 

If the prosecutor assigns misdemeanor charges to a crime of gaming/gambling fraud, the penalties include serving misdemeanor probation. The other name for misdemeanor probation is informal or summary probation. Misdemeanor probation has fewer requirements of probation than felony probation.  For instance, you do not have to interact with or meet the probation officer regularly. You also do not have to file a report at the probation office regularly. 

The court may also recommend a jail time that does not exceed six months if the property involved does not exceed $950. However, if the property involved in the fraud is more than $950, jail time may extend up to one year in a county jail in California. 

For misdemeanor gambling/gaming fraud, the court may require you to pay a fine not exceeding $1,000.  Just like in the case of felony gaming/gambling fraud, you might have to pay restitution to the victim as a condition of probation.

Common Legal Defenses for Gambling Fraud in California

When the prosecutor accuses you of fraudulent gaming, you do not have to give up. You should first contact an experienced attorney and inform him/her about your case. The attorney will analyze the situation and develop a proper defense for you. According to California law, gambling is a severe crime, and the associated consequences are equally severe. Many people assume that fraudulent gambling is a simple offense; however, they are usually shocked to learn about the implications of fraudulent gambling. 

The consequences of fraudulent gambling include serving many years in prison. You might also pay hefty fines. It is advisable to contact a criminal defense attorney immediately; you face the charges.  Some of the defense mechanisms you can take advantage of with the help of your attorney include:

 Lack of Fraudulent Intent

 For you to face fraud charges in California, it must be evident that you had the intent to commit fraud. The law refers to this intent as fraudulent intent. Having a fraudulent purpose entails having an ill motive, acting dishonestly, and failing to play by the rules of the game. You can fight fraud charges by outlining that you did not have a particular intent to defraud the victim of his property or money. You might have engaged in gambling solely for entertainment purposes and not with the plan to obtain cash from another person.  You might also have taken part in legal gambling fairly and transparently.  If you play fairly and win some cash, you are not guilty of committing gambling fraud.

First Amendment Defense

The first amendment of the United States' constitution gives people freedom of speech. You might fight certain types of gaming fraud. They include fraudulent fortune-telling, by outlining that you were exercising your freedom of speech.  Under the first amendment of the constitution, you have a right to free speech, religion, and expression. For some people, fortune-telling may be part of their faith.  If you were acting within the confines of your faith at the time of fortune-telling, you might not be guilty of fraudulent gambling.

Find an Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me

If you are experiencing gambling or gaming fraud charges in LA, you need a reliable criminal defense attorney by your side. An attorney will help you develop a strategic defense. The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm assists persons who are facing fraud charges in LA. Contact us at 310-935-1675 and speak to one of our expert attorneys.