The California Penal Code 332 outlines the crime of gambling fraud, also known as gaming fraud.  Under California law, gambling fraud is a form of theft crime because it entails taking another person's money or property in a fraudulent manner. The most common types of gambling that people commonly engage in include pretensions to fortune-telling, betting, tricks, and card games.  You should note that the California law is not against all forms of gambling. However, you may face charges if you use schemes aimed at tricking other individuals into betting, making them believe they will gain something. You may face gambling fraud charges if you use stacked decks and card tricks to trick people and take their money. If you are facing criminal charges for gambling fraud, Los Angeles Criminal Attorney can help you fight the charges in court. 

What is Gambling?

Gambling refers to an activity where someone risks his/her money or other belongings in the hope of winning an award or a token.  The person engaging in gaming is not assured of winning because there is an element of chance or randomness involved in the outcome of the gambling activity.  There are many ways in which people engage in gambling. The development of technology has given rise to new forms of gambling, including online gambling. 

The California constitution defines gambling as an illegal activity as long as you gamble with the intention of defrauding another person of his/her money, belongings, or property.  However, the constitution recognizes some forms of gambling, especially the ones that are regulated by the state. Some legal forms of gambling in California are also regulated by the California State's Native American Tribes. Typical forms of gambling in California include card rooms, Bingo, tribal casinos, horse racing wagering, state-run lottery, arcade games, and gaming machines. 

Arcade games aim at offering entertainment for the whole family. Adult arcade centers are also known as Adult gaming centers and require a legal license to operate.  Operators of Adult Gaming Centers in California have to obtain licensing from the gambling or gaming commission.  There is a strict age restriction for adult gaming centers in California, and a person below the age of 18 years cannot participate in gaming activities. Categories of Adult Gaming Centers depend on licensing. The primary categories of Adult Gaming Centers include unlicensed family entertainment centers and licensed family entertainment centers.

Betting is also a common form of gambling in California. According to California law, sports betting is prohibited, but people engage in other forms of betting.  The gambling activity entails placing a certain amount of money or property as a stake expecting some benefits in case of a particular outcome. The common forms of betting in California include spread betting, pool betting, and fixed odds betting. 

Casino games are also common forms of gambling in California. You can play casino games online or on the premises.   The common types of casino games in California include Baccarat, Blackjack, Roulette, and Poker. 

The state of California organizes and manages the state lottery, which is an organized and legalized form of gambling.  To participate in the state lottery, you must be above the age of 18 years.  If you participate in the state lottery and you are below 18 years, you may face misdemeanor charges. Common types of lotteries include sweepstakes, raffles, Tombolas.

Gambling also takes place on gaming machines, including slot machines, jackpot, and fruit. 

Are There Legal Gambling Platforms in California?

The state of California recognizes and approves various forms of gaming platforms, the most common being:

Card clubs - Normally, card clubs make money by charging players are participation fee. The clubs are different from casinos because they do not entail playing against the house, as in the case of casinos. 

Charitable Gambling - The state of California recognizes and has legalized charitable gambling. In this form of gambling, all the proceeds of gambling are channeled to charitable activities.  It is important to note that the state of California only legalizes charitable gambling if it is in the form of Bingo. In most cases, charities organize and run charitable gambling.  

The State Lottery - the state of California legalizes the state lottery. The state also manages the lottery.  The main games that players participate in include Super Lotto Plus and Mega Millions.

Indian Casinos - Indian Casinos feature Bingo halls and Vegas-style casinos. Common games played in Indian Casinos include slots, poker, and blackjack. 

Overview of Gambling Fraud

For you to face gambling fraud charges under California Penal Code 332 PC, the prosecutor has to prove several elements of the crime. The prosecutor has to prove that you used fraud to obtain another individual's property or money. The prosecutor must also prove that you fraudulently obtained money or property from the other person through gambling. For instance, you may have used a game like three-card Monte to obtain money from the victim. You may also have pretended to be a fortune teller in order to obtain the property. The prosecutor may also prove gambling fraud if you obtained the money or the property by betting on the sides of any game.

Acting in a fraudulent manner means that you were dishonest in your actions, failing to act in integrity, or acting in bad faith. It entails cheating other people and failing to follow the rules of the game.  You are not guilty of gambling fraud if you honestly play card games with other individuals, and you win on merit and in a transparent manner. You are only guilty of committing gambling fraud if you trick other people through gambling.  For the crime of gambling fraud to be complete, you have to win something from the victim or victims. In most cases, you may win money or property. However, you may also win other awards or properties that have a monetary value.  For instance, if you are participating in a poker game, the participants have to buy chips, and one chip may be worth as high as $5. When the game ends, the participants have to pay for the chips they have lost. Therefore, if you use trickery or fraud to win a poker game, you may make other participants to lose money in paying for chips after losing the game. Therefore, you may face gambling fraud charges because, in this case, poker game chips qualify as property of the players. 

Other Common Forms of Gambling Frauds

Other than card games, there are other common forms of gambling that a person may use to obtain money from another person fraudulently. Common types of gambling in California include:

Free Speech or Fortune Telling

You may commit California gambling fraud if you use free speech or fortune-telling to obtain money or property from another person fraudulently.  It is trick to prosecute a person based on free speech due to the protection that the California right of free speech offers.  When determining whether fortune-telling is a crime, the court will consider the circumstances of fortune-telling. For instance, the court will consider whether the fortune teller believes and adhered to a particular religion. If you are a fortune-teller who believes in a religion that supports methods of foretelling the future, you may not face charges. Even if you accept money from people in exchange for helping them read the future, you may not face charges as long as you are acting within the confines of a particular religion.  You may also evade charges for fortune-telling if you put up a sign that informs your clients that your work is solely for entertainment purposes.

You may face gambling fraud charges if it is evident that you do not believe in your own predictions. If the court establishes that your main aim is to obtain money or defraud unsuspecting clients, you may face charges under Penal Code 332.  If the prosecutor proves that you are guilty, you may face prosecution according to California law, which makes it a crime to obtain property or money from other people through gambling fraud.

Multiple Account Frauds –When gambling online, users may have to open user accounts. A player who has the intent of committing gambling fraud may open multiple accounts with varying details. If the gamer uses the accounts to trick other gamers or opens the accounts with fake credentials, he/she may face gambling fraud charges under California law.

Chip Dumping in Poker Games-When playing poker, a player may attempt to influence the outcome of the game by using multiple accounts.  By operating on multiple accounts, it is easy for a gamer to trick or cheat other gamers in favor of him or her or in favor of another gamer. These forms of cheating may qualify as gambling fraud, according to California law.

Chargebacks-A gamer may perform gambling fraud through chargebacks. Chargebacks refer to requests usually sent to the gamer's credit card provider or bank to reverse transactions of payments made to the gambling company.  This is a form of gambling fraud because once the reversals are affected, they are at the expense of the gaming company. 

Bonus Abuse-Gamers may perform gambling fraud through bonus abuse.  It is common for gambling companies to offer signup bonuses to new members in order to encourage many people to sign up.  At some sites, you may get a bonus of up to 100% of your first deposit. Some gamers may take advantage of the bonuses and open numerous accounts of the same gaming platform using different credentials.  Opening numerous accounts in order to benefit from signup bonuses fraudulently, is a form of gambling fraud.

Top Up Fraud

To continue participating in gaming, you have to keep topping up your gaming account. If you trick another person into topping up your gaming account, you may face top-up abuse charges under California law.  This crime is similar to the crime of stealing money in order to fund your gaming activities, especially if you are a gambling addict. You may also commit top-up fraud if you top up your gaming account using credentials from stolen credit cards. This way, you would be using another person's money to fund your gambling activities without their knowledge. 

Other ways of committing gambling fraud include using multiple accounts to maximize your winnings and your bonuses by intentionally losing.  You may have numerous gaming accounts and pretend to be playing against other players, while in the real sense, you are playing against yourself. 

Consequences of Gambling Fraud Under California Law

Upon committing a gambling fraud in California, the charges you face will depend on the amount of money you fraudulently obtained from the victim. If you commit gambling fraud and you obtain from the victim money or property worth $950 or more, the offense will be a wobbler under California law. This means that the prosecutor may either assign misdemeanor or felony charges to your crime.  If you obtain money or property that does not exceed $950 from another person through gambling fraud, the prosecutor will attach misdemeanor charges to the offense. 

Felony Charges

If the prosecutor charges you with felony gambling fraud, the consequences may include formal felony probation. If the court recommends formal felony probation, you will not go to jail for the crime. Instead, you will serve probation, and during probation, you may have to meet some probation conditions. For instance, you may have to perform community service and regularly meet with the probation officer on a regular basis.  You also have to report in the probation office regularly. If you fail to abide by the conditions of probation, the court may cancel the probation and recommend jail time instead. 

Other than probation, felony gambling fraud may attract jail time in a California county jail. The imprisonment period may vary from 16 months, two years, or three years in line with California's realignment program.

The court may also assign a hefty monetary fine that does not exceed $5,000 if you commit a first-time gambling fraud in California.  If you commit a second or subsequent offense, the court may impose a hefty fine of up to $10,000.

Misdemeanor Charges

If the prosecutor charges you with a misdemeanor for committing a gambling fraud and obtaining property worth less than $950, you will face reduced charges under California law. The consequences may include misdemeanor felony probation. This probation is not as strict as formal felony probation, and you will not have to meet with the probation officer on a regular basis. You will also not have to visit the probation office regularly. A misdemeanor summary probation may last for up to three years. It is important to note that if you fail to follow the conditions of probation, the court may cancel the probation and recommend jail time like in the case of felony probation. 

Other penalties for a misdemeanor offense of gambling fraud include serving jail time in a California county jail. The jail time may last for up to six months if the money or property obtained through gambling fraud is less than $950. If you face misdemeanor charges and the money or property obtained through gambling fraud exceeds $950, you may serve more extended jail time of up to one year in a California county jail.

The court may also impose hefty penalties for committing misdemeanor gambling fraud. You may have to pay a fine of up to $1,000.

Fighting Gambling Fraud Charges

Most people do not consider the crime of gambling a serious crime. According to some people, gambling fraud may seem like a simple act of cheating at cards, and most people consider this a norm in the gambling world.  However, most defendants suffer shock upon learning about the hefty penalties that come with committing a gambling fraud.  You may serve several years in prison or pay huge amounts of money for the crime. It is, therefore, important to consult a criminal defense attorney who can advise you about the various defense strategies you can adopt. 

To fight gaming fraud charges, you may assert that you did not intend to defraud the victim of money or property. Just like other fraud charges, you need to have a specific intent of denying a person of his property, making him/her miss the value and enjoyment of the property. You may assert that the gambling was merely for entertainment and you did not intend to steal. For instance, if you feel that you participated in legal gambling and you won the money or property in a fair and transparent manner, you can outline this fact in court. 

You may also fight gambling charges by asserting that you were acting within your rights of free speech in accordance with First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  The first amendment gives people freedoms concerning expression, religion, and speech. Still, under the provision, you may assert that you were acting in accordance with your religion or what you believe in.  For instance, if your religion believes in foretelling the future and you engage in fortune-telling, you may point out that you were acting in line with your religion. 

Contact a Los Angeles Defense Criminal Attorney Near Me

If you are facing gambling fraud charges, the consequences can be devastating. However, with the help of a criminal attorney, you can come up with defense strategies to prompt the court to reduce the charges. Contact Los Angeles Criminal Attorney at 424-333-0943 and seek the counsel of one of our attorneys.