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Bookmaking Laws (PC 377a) in California- IE-Criminal Defense

I. PC 377a: Bookmaking


Legal Definition:

(a) Except as provided in Section 336.9, every person who engages in one of the following offenses, shall be punished for a first offense by imprisonment in a county jail for a period of not more than one year or in the state prison, or by a fine not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both imprisonment and fine:

(1) Pool selling or bookmaking, with or without writing, at any time or place.

(2) Whether for gain, hire, reward, or gratuitously, or otherwise, keeps or occupies, for any period of time whatsoever, any room, shed, tenement, tent, booth, building, float, vessel, place, stand or enclosure, of any kind, or any part thereof, with a book or books, paper or papers, apparatus, device or paraphernalia, for the purpose of recording or registering any bet or bets, any purported bet or bets, wager or wagers, any purported wager or wagers, selling pools, or purported pools, upon the result, or purported result, of any trial, purported trial, contest, or purported contest, of skill, speed or power of endurance of person or animal, or between persons, animals, or mechanical apparatus, or upon the result, or purported result, of any lot, chance, casualty, unknown or contingent event whatsoever.

(3) Whether for gain, hire, reward, or gratuitously, or otherwise, receives, holds, or forwards, or purports or pretends to receive, hold, or forward, in any manner whatsoever, any money, thing or consideration of value, or the equivalent or memorandum thereof, staked, pledged, bet or wagered, or to be staked, pledged, bet or wagered, or offered for the purpose of being staked, pledged, bet or wagered, upon the result, or purported result, of any trial, or purported trial, or contest, or purported contest, of skill, speed or power of endurance of person or animal, or between persons, animals, or mechanical apparatus, or upon the result, or purported result, of any lot, chance, casualty, unknown or contingent event whatsoever.

(4) Whether for gain, hire, reward, or gratuitously, or otherwise, at any time or place, records, or registers any bet or bets, wager or wagers, upon the result, or purported result, of any trial, or purported trial, or contest, or purported contest, of skill, speed or power of endurance of person or animal, or between persons, animals, or mechanical apparatus, or upon the result, or purported result, of any lot, chance, casualty, unknown or contingent event whatsoever.

(5) Being the owner, lessee or occupant of any room, shed, tenement, tent, booth, building, float, vessel, place, stand, enclosure or grounds, or any part thereof, whether for gain, hire, reward, or gratuitously, or otherwise, permits that space to be used or occupied for any purpose, or in any manner prohibited by paragraph (1), (2), (3), or (4).

(6) Lays, makes, offers or accepts any bet or bets, or wager or wagers, upon the result, or purported result, of any trial, or purported trial, or contest, or purported contest, of skill, speed or power of endurance of person or animal, or between persons, animals, or mechanical apparatus.

For a person to be convicted of a violation of PC 377a, the prosecution must show that:

  1. You owned, rented, or occupied a place;
  2. You allowed the place to be used for bookmaking/pool selling/recording/registering bets/receiving, holding, or forwarding bets;

AND

  1. You knew that the place was being used for that purpose.

II. What does this mean?


Gambling is strictly regulated and prosecuted in the State of California. Bookmaking includes the taking of bets, either orally or recorded in writing. The defendant does not need to be involved in betting as a business or occupation. The taking of one bet is sufficient. A place means the whole or part of any room/building/stand/shed/tenement/tent/booth/float/vessel/vehicle/enclosure of any kind. Pool selling means selling or distributing shares or chances in a betting pool. You do not need to be involved in selling or distributing shares or chances as a business or occupation. A single act that violates this statute is sufficient. It is not necessary that the event that is the subject of a betting pool actually take place.

A bet is a wager or agreement between two or more people that if an uncertain future event happens, the loser will pay money to the winner/give the winner something of value. Recording or registering a bet means making a notation on paper, or using any other material or device, to allow winnings on the bet to be distributed in the future. Recording or registering a bet does not require the type of registering or recording that occurs in a legitimate business establishment.

III. Penalties


A violation under PC 377a for Bookmaking can be an Infraction, a Misdemeanor or as a Felony offense. An infraction offense under this section occurs if the amount gambled is less than $2,500. An infraction carries the punishment of a fine up to $250.

If the amount gambled is over $2,500, it becomes at minimum, a misdemeanor offense. A misdemeanor conviction under this section that carries a punishment of up to one year in County Jail. You would be required to serve at least 50% of that time in custody. The fines under this section get worse depending on how many prior convictions under this sections you have. A first conviction carries fins up to $5,000, a second conviction is up to $10,000, and a third conviction can lead to fines up to $15,000.

If you have one prior conviction under this section, your new charges can be elevated to a felony charge. A felony conviction under this section can land you in State Prison for upwards of 16 months, 2 or 3 years. You would have to serve at least 50% of that time in custody.

This is not a strike offense under California’s Three Strikes Law. It is also not a Sex Offense requiring Sex Registration under PC 290. However, because this crime involves dishonesty and illegal gambling, it would likely affect people with Professional Licenses and people in Immigration proceedings.

IV. Common Defenses


  1. Statute of Limitations
  2. Insufficient Evidence
  3. Violation of Rights
  4. Entrapment

Entrapment occurs when police, or their agents, encourage or promote the crime by way of their overbearing conduct. The idea has to be formed in the mind of police, and not on the Defendant, in order to successfully use this defense. In certain circumstances, police can “lure” a person who would otherwise not have intended to engaged in illegally gambling or bookmaking. If the criminal intent started in the mind of police, and their overbearing conduct forced you into creating a violation under PC 377a, you could use this defense in your case.

Intent is an important need for the DA to prove in a case of Bookmaking against you. If you rent a place, and do not know others are using the place for some kind of illegal gambling, then you cannot be found guilty of the charge. Failing to show your knowledge of what is going on, and that you are allowing it to go on, attacks the elements of the charged required to be proved against you. If a Prosecutor cannot show you had the needed intent, then there wouldn’t be insufficient evidence to prove you guilty of the charge.

V. Call Today


A criminal conviction can be devastating to a person’s life and reputation. A charge of Bookmaking can land you in jail for up to a year, or up to 3 years in a State Prison if you have a prior record. Our PC 377a Ontario attorney has successfully defended numerous cases involving Bookmaking offenses under PC 377a. The initial consultation is free and we are available to answer your questions 24/7. Call the Inland Empire Criminal Defense today at 909-939-7126! Located in Ontario, CA.

Disclaimer: The legal information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice, nor should it be considered the formation of a lawyer or attorney-client relationship. If you would like to find out more information about your particular legal matter, contact our office for a consultation.

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