Even though the legal age to gamble in California is 18, don't be surprised if you show up at a casino, money in hand, and are asked to leave if you're under 21. Some casinos don't allow patrons under 21 to enter because alcohol is being served. Before you travel to a casino, make sure you know ahead of time what the legal age is for entry. But there are casinos in California in which 18-year-olds can access some or all of the gambling areas.
Barona Resort & Casino
In the San Diego community of Lakeside, you'll find Barona Casino--which claims to have the certified "loosest" video poker, blackjack and roulette in the city (better odds for the player). The casino floor has more than 2,000 slot and video poker machines as well as all the traditional casino games. There's also Rapid Baccarat, where you have your own gaming terminal, and a twist on blackjack called Super Fun 21. Barona has overnight accommodations, a full-service spa and several restaurants. Those age 18 can gamble at Barona because alcohol is not served on the casino floor. Alcohol is served, however, in the resort's restaurants and in the hotel, so you must be 21 to book a room.
Barona Resort & Casino 1932 Wildcat Canyon Rd. Lakeside, CA 92040 (888) 722-7662 barona.com
Gold Country Casino & Hotel
This casino is in the Northern California city of Oroville, known as The City of Gold because of its proximity to gold mines. Since alcohol is served on the casino floor, 18-year-olds cannot gamble there. However, the poker rooms and the bingo hall are located in a separate area where 18-year-olds are allowed to play. The poker parlor offers games of Texas Hold'em and Omaha, plus bounty and no-limit tournaments where you could win as much as $10,000. The casino's bingo parlor features traditional paper games and electronic bingo; you can win up to $1,000. Gold Country has an 87-room hotel, four dining establishments and Vegas-style shows, including its popular all-male revue "HUNKS The Show."
Gold Country Casino & Hotel 4020 Olive Highway Oroville, CA 95966 (800) 334-9400 goldcountrycasino.com
In the Southern California community of El Cajon (30 minutes east of San Diego), Sycuan Casino welcomes 18-year-olds to the casino floor to play any game. Enjoy video poker and slots, poker rooms and 63 tables with games like three-card poker, Caribbean stud and Pai Gow. You can bet on the horses and play bingo, too. Sycuan has resort accommodations located about two miles from the casino with golf, a full-service spa and dining. Become a Club Sycuan member and you'll get a free buffet, and each time you gamble you'll earn points for rewards like instant cash back.
Sycuan Casino 5469 Casino Way El Cajon, CA 92019 (800) 279-2826 sycuancasino.com
Eagle Mountain Casino
This casino in Central California serves no alcohol anywhere on the premises, so 18-year-olds can gamble throughout the casino. Eagle Mountain Casino is in Porterville, about halfway between Bakersfield and Fresno. With slot jackpots in the millions, you can try your luck at one of the casino's 1,400 slot machines. Hit the tables and enjoy all the traditional casino games; some tables have only a $5 minimum. The casino does not have accommodations, but there are several hotels nearby. Eagle Mountain has two restaurants and a food court, plus concert events throughout the year.
Eagle Mountain Casino 681 South Tule Rd. Porterville, CA 93258 (800) 903-3353 eaglemtncasino.com
Lesley Henton has a journalism degree and over 20 years of writing experience. She belongs to the Golden Key and Kappa Tau Alpha National Honor Societies. She's been published in regional magazines like "Brazos Family" and "In the Zone." Henton co-edited and wrote in the books "Discovering Greater Phoenix" and "Los Angeles: Place of Possibilities."