Gambling Fraud

Obtaining money through fraudulent means is a severe offense in California. Gambling fraud occurs when a person obtains another person's valuable property through card games, tricks, gambling, betting, or pretentious fortune-telling. While some gaming platforms in California are legal, those that involve fraud are illegal and could result in severe criminal charges. It helps to know what the law considers gambling fraud, its consequences, and what you can do to avoid a conviction if you face gambling fraud charges in Santa Ana, CA. Our team of skilled criminal lawyers at Darwish Law could help you through the legal process until you obtain a favorable outcome for your situation.

Overview of Gambling in California

Gaming and gambling are pretty popular in California. People participate in games for entertainment and to win a valuable item or money. Various games are played here, including card games, roulette, craps, and slots. Gaming and gambling are used interchangeably to mean the same. But activities that satisfy gambling elements must involve betting on a specific outcome or wagering. The basis of results in these games must be partly or entirely on chance. Players must play the games to win.

For most people, gambling entails betting on your money, hoping to win more money or property of greater value. However, California law provides a broader definition of gambling, including placing a wager on a valuable asset, hoping for more wins, or winning an item of even greater value. The valuable item used for gambling is called consideration. It could be money or any valuable property.

The factor of chance is typical with most gambling in California. Gambling laws prohibit games, bets, and wagers that are fully or partially based on this element. California does not approve games that award players based on chance but skills. For example, you will not face criminal charges for gambling fraud for participating in a racing competition whereby you are awarded for winning.

However, the law also considers the lawfulness of games played, even when players are awarded for their skills. The distinguishing factor between legal and illegal gambling in California is not just based on the criteria of rewarding winners. The intent of participants is also an element of consideration. Some people participate in games to showcase their skills and receive awards in the end. But others participate in gaming to trick other unsuspecting participants into giving up their money or valuable items.

The aspect of winning a valuable item is vital in gambling. You cannot be a gamer or gambler if you participate in games without hoping to win a useful item or money. In this case, an item could be money, or any other valuable item, or even a chance to continue playing.

You can still face charges under California PC 332 even if you are not the one that places a bet. You are in a gaming competition with others who have placed their wagers and have an equal opportunity to win. You will be considered a gambler, provided you also have a chance of winning.

Most people gamble for profits. No one wants to win less than the amount or value of their bet. The establishments running these games also make profits. That leaves a loophole for those that use tricks and fraud to win against their opponents. Some states allow social gambling, whereby people participate in games for fun, not for profit. These states forbid gambling as a business. Gambling becomes a business when establishments operate gambling halls to make money. They collect part of the money players pay as fees for participating in gaming.

California considers gambling for business an illegal activity. You could face criminal charges if you operate a casino or throw a casino party in which participants pay an entry charge. But social gambling is acceptable, where all participants are treated as equals, with none making profits from the game.

Type of Gambling Recognized in California

California law has legalized some types of gaming, including the following:

State Lottery

It features many games and allows participants from across the state. Participants stand to win lots of money and other prizes.

Charitable Gambling

It features various games like bingo. Proceeds from these games go to charity. Charitable organizations organize these games. However, charitable gambling is not highly regulated, and fraud, theft, irregularities, and cheating have been reported.

Mutual Betting

Participants pool their bets together, play against each other, and the winners are rewarded from the participant's bets. The prize pool in mutual betting depends on the amount wagered. The amount is higher if more people participate in betting.

Indian Casinos

They are very similar to Las Vegas casinos. They feature games like poker and blackjack, bingo, and slot machines. But they are highly restricted.

Card Clubs

They charge players to play against each other and not against the house. You can take part in gaming once you pay the participation fee. You stand an equal chance of winning with other participants.

Gambling Fraud and Legal Definition

Gambling does not sit well with a lot of people. It is considered a vice and an activity that corrupts the morals of a society. But, people who participate in gambling think it is a harmless way of entertaining themselves and a chance to make money. Thus, many have divergent views regarding gambling and whether or not it should be legal.

The state plays its part in regulating gambling due to the rising concerns about criminal involvement in this sector. Criminals mainly target gambling due to the large amounts of money involved. Thus, only limited games are legalized in California.

The law against gambling fraud is under California PC 332. This law prohibits anyone from fraudulently obtaining another person's money or property through card games, betting, tricks, gambling, or pretentious fortune-telling. Remember that the gambling law in California does not make gambling or bookmarking illegal. Illegal activities like those are discussed under different laws ( California PC 330 — Gaming laws and Penal Code 337a — Bookmarking statutes).

California PC 332 is mainly concerned about using stacked decks, card tricks, and other schemes to trick others into placing bets on a possible win. Here are some activities that could satisfy the elements of gambling fraud:

  • Using cards and other tricks to tell someone's fortunes and charging them money for it
  • Purposely using a card trick to obtain cash from someone else

The district attorney must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt for the court to find you guilty of gambling fraud:

  • That you obtained property of value from another person
  • You did so fraudulently.
  • You did so through betting, card games like three-card monte, gambling, tricks or hand skills, or pretentious fortune-telling.

Remember that obtaining money or property fraudulently could mean cheating. It could include gaining an unfair advantage over a participant in any gambling contest using a device or technique not sanctioned by the game's rules.

Obtaining money or property fraudulently could also mean acting with bad faith against another person, lacking integrity or moral turpitude, or acting dishonestly against another.

Engaging in gambling acts like card games and fortune-telling with others and honestly winning against them will not lead to gambling fraud charges. But if you use tricks to cheat other players, you could face charges under California PC 332.

The statute requires you to participate in a gambling act to win the valuable property. You must win money, property, or a chance to play against another person for the charges to apply. When that happens, and the circumstances of your case satisfy all other elements of the offense, you could be guilty under this law.

Fortune Telling and Gambling Fraud

Fortune telling is one way you can commit gambling fraud in California. It is prohibited under this statute alongside gambling acts like playing card games. It is challenging for the prosecutor to demonstrate that you fraudulently engaged in fortune-telling mainly due to Californian's constitutional right to freedom of speech. Some people use this right as a defense when accused of fortune-telling.

That is why prosecutors consider several other factors in determining if you violated the law or were exercising your constitutional right. For example, the prosecutor will consider the religious beliefs you abide by and whether or not they allow fortune-telling. If your spiritual beliefs allow fortune-telling or related activities, you will not face criminal charges for fraudulent fortune-telling. You will also not face criminal charges under this law if there is evidence that your fortune-telling is purely for entertainment.

However, if the court has reasons to believe that your religious beliefs do not allow future predictions, or you do not believe in fortune-telling, you could face charges under this law if you engage in it or similar acts for profit. If your religious beliefs do not include fortune-telling, it could mean that you do it only to cheat unsuspecting victims out of their money. Thus, you will face charges for fraudulently taking money.

Penalties for a Gambling Fraud Conviction in California

Fraud is penalized as grand theft or petty theft in California. Your penalties depend on the amount you have fraudulently taken from the other person. The same applies to gambling fraud. Your penalties under California PC 332 will be based on the amount of monetary value of what you have fraudulently taken from your victim.

The offense is a wobbler if you are guilty of fraudulently obtaining property worth more than $950. It means that the district attorney can charge it as a misdemeanor or felony based on the other facts of the crime. But if you are guilty of obtaining property valued at or below $950, you could face misdemeanor charges.

If the court finds you guilty of misdemeanor gambling fraud, you will likely face the following penalties:

  • Summary or misdemeanor probation
  • A maximum of one year in jail
  • A fine of not more than $1,000

You will serve the entire sentence out of incarceration if you are lucky to be sentenced to misdemeanor probation. Misdemeanor probation lasts between one and three years. The judge will require you to adhere to specific probation conditions, including paying restitution and all court fines, participating in community work, and not engaging in unlawful acts that could result in another arrest. Failing to adhere to probation conditions could result in your re-arrest and cancellation of your probation. You will serve your entire sentence and could face additional charges depending on violated probation conditions.

If the court finds you guilty of felony gambling fraud, you will likely receive the following penalties:

  • Formal or felony probation
  • A maximum of three years in prison
  • A fine of not more than $5,000 for first offenders and a maximum of $10,000 for second or subsequent offenders

You could serve part or your entire sentence out of incarceration if sentenced to probation. You will also be given specific probation conditions that you must adhere to throughout the probation period. For instance, you will be required to report to a probation officer periodically, pay all court fines, pay restitution to your victims, and complete the required hours of community service. You must also be careful not to commit new crimes while on probation. Failing to abide by these conditions could cause the judge to cancel your probation. Then, you will serve your entire sentence behind bars.

How To Fight California Gambling Fraud Charges

Gambling fraud is pretty severe. It could result in severe consequences upon conviction, including time in jail/prison, payment of a hefty fine, and a damaging criminal record. These will affect your life, including your social and career life. Thus, it would be best to fight your charges to compel the court to dismiss or reduce them. That could be possible with the help of a competent criminal attorney. Fortunately for you, California laws allow various legal defense strategies that your attorney can use to fight your charges. Some of them are:

You Did Not Act With Fraudulent Intent

Gambling fraud law requires you to act with fraudulent intent to be guilty of your charges. It would be best to convince the jury that you did not act with a fraudulent purpose for the judge to dismiss your charges. You only cheated in the game to play a joke on your friends or colleagues.

It is challenging for prosecutors to prove a person's intent. Thus, an aggressive criminal attorney can use this defense to cause the court to reconsider your charges. The judge can free you with no further charges if the prosecutor cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you acted with fraudulent intent.

You Were Exercising Your Right to Freedom of Speech

You could use this defense if you face charges under this statute for fortune-telling. Everyone in California enjoys the freedom of speech, allowing them to share information and ideas freely without fear of censorship.

To conclude this case, the court will consider other factors, including your religious beliefs and whether you believe in fortune-telling. The judge could dismiss your charges if you did not have fraudulent intent while fortune-telling and only spoke your mind without expecting a reward.

You Are a Victim of Police Entrapment

Your criminal attorney could use this defense if you were arrested for gambling fraud after an undercover operation. The police require substantial evidence to arrest a person suspected of illegal acts or deals. Sometimes they perform covert operations to catch criminals in the act. But, these operations do not work out in the end and could result in dismissing a suspect's charges.

Entrapment entails luring a suspect into committing a crime and then arresting them. It is an illegal and overbearing act for law enforcement officers in which they harass, put pressure on, flatter, fraud, or threaten suspected offenders into committing criminal offenses. Entrapment is widely used as a legal defense strategy and could result in a dismissal of your criminal charges.

If you believe you are a victim of entrapment and can convince the court that you could not have committed the crime were it not for the police involvement, you can successfully use this defense. If indeed the arresting officer used tricks, threats, harassment, or flattery to cause you to commit gambling fraud, the court could dismiss all your charges.

Find a Competent Criminal Lawyer Near Me

Do you or someone you know face charges under California PC 332 in Santa Ana, CA?

Gambling fraud charges are pretty serious and could result in a lengthy time behind bars and payment of a hefty fine if you are guilty. You must hire a competent criminal attorney from the beginning of the legal process to advise, guide, and defend you in court if you wish to obtain a fair outcome for your case. We offer competency, reliability, and professionalism at Darwish Law. We handle a wide range of fraud cases every day, including gambling fraud. Thus, we can use the best strategies to compel the court to dismiss or reduce your charges. Call us at 714-887-4810 to learn more about this statute and our services.