California Casino Jackpot Tax

When you gamble, you’re probably only focused on winning in the moment. You don’t think about what the government might take off the top of your wins.

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Celebrating and sharing the big news when someone hits a California Jackpot. It happens daily all over the Golden State! Send us a snap of your big win or direct us to your YouTube page with winning videos. Casino Gambling Taxes by State. The following guide covers seven states that want a big chunk of your winnings. It also discusses common questions and topics regarding gambling and taxes. California: The California casino scene is a thriving land-based gambling industry. It offers 62 tribal casinos, 88 card rooms, and over a dozen horse tracks. The federal government taxes gambling winnings at the highest rates allowed. So do the many states and even cities that impose income taxes on their residents. If you make enough money, in a high-tax state like California or New York, the top tax bracket is about 50 percent.

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Of course, the US federal government always wants a cut. It demands 24% of your winnings through federal taxes.

However, states vary on how they tax gambling income. Some are much worse than others due to their high rates.


Casino Gambling Taxes by State

The following guide covers seven states that want a big chunk of your winnings. It also discusses common questions and topics regarding gambling and taxes.


The California casino scene is a thriving land-based gambling industry. It offers 62 tribal casinos, 88 card rooms, and over a dozen horse tracks.

That said, California is definitely a good vacation spot due to its weather and numerous gaming options. But you might take pause on visiting here when considering the extreme tax rate.

California taxes gambling wins as normal income. It collects anywhere from 1% to 13.3% of your winnings. The 13.3% is the highest state tax rate in the US.


Iowa boasts casinos, poker rooms, and sports betting. It charges a 5% flat tax on winnings earned in the Hawkeye State.


Minnesota offers a wide range of charity gambling establishments and a lottery. The Gopher State may not provide massive Vegas-style resorts, but it does give you some options.

It taxes gambling according to four income brackets (based on married people’s income):

  1. 35% ($0 to $39,410 annually)
  2. 05% ($39,410 to $156,570)
  3. 85% ($156,760 to $273,470)
  4. 85% ($273,470 and above)

You’ll likely fall into the 5.35% bracket if you do profit through gambling. But if you win really big, you’ll need to deal with the large 9.85% rate.

New York:

Gambling in New York has grown within the past decade. Its Expanded Gaming Act has added commercial casinos on top of the existing tribal establishments.

You can also enjoy lotteries and poker here too. Assuming you win, though, then you must ante up between 4% and 8.82% for state taxes.


The Beaver State offers lotteries, charity gaming, horse racing, and tribal casinos. It provides more than enough gambling options for its 4.22 million residents.

Oregon doesn’t worry about taxing wins worth less than $600. However, it does impose an 8% tax on winnings worth over $600.


Vermont features a unique tax structure that varies based on your winnings. You’ll pay a 6.72% rate on wins worth less than $5,000, and 6% on wins worth over $5,000.


Wisconsin features 22 tribal casinos and lotteries. The Cheese State requires up to 7.65% in taxes on gambling winnings.

Should You Avoid States With High Gambling Taxes?

You don’t necessarily need to avoid states with high gambling taxes—especially when you’re interested in a certain casino or sportsbook. However, you should keep this matter in the back of your mind.

If you live halfway between Reno and some California tribal casinos, for example, then you should consider choosing Reno. After all, Nevada won’t grab a percentage of your winnings afterward.

Of course, you also want to take other factors into account besides taxes. Here are aspects to think about when determining what state you’ll gamble in:

  • Convenience/distance – You don’t want to drive for hours just to avoid gambling taxes.
  • Quality of gambling venues – Playing at the best casinos/poker rooms/sportsbooks can make dealing with high stakes worthwhile.
  • Availability of regulated online gambling – You may be focused on using legal online casinos and betting sites above all.
  • Your preferred stakes – You probably don’t need to worry much about higher taxes if you’re just playing quarter slots or $5 blackjack.

What If You Don’t Live in the State Where You Win?

Gambling over state lines causes confusion on where to pay taxes. Do you pay your home state or the one where you win?

Typically, you cover taxes in the state where the winnings occur. Your home state, meanwhile, will give you a tax credit for whatever is paid to the other state.

Here’s an example:

  • You live in Oregon near the California border.
  • You cross the border and buy a lottery ticket at a CA gas station.
  • You win a $1 million prize.
  • As per California’s tax laws, the $1 million payout is subject to the highest 13.3% rate.
  • You pay $133,000 to the Golden State.
  • Oregon only features an 8% tax rate on large gambling wins.
  • Therefore, you owe nothing to the Beaver State.

Don’t Forget Federal Taxes

Some states don’t require you to pay any taxes on gambling winnings. These states include:

  • Alaska
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

You must pay federal taxes on wins no matter what—even if you live in a state with no gambling taxes. Again, Uncle Sam wants 24% of your winnings.

This percentage is already significant. It becomes even more noteworthy in a state like California, where you could pay up to a 37.3% total tax (24 + 13.3).

You report gambling wins under the “other income” on Form 1040. The government expects you to report winnings even if you earn just $1.

Of course, you can almost assuredly get away without reporting a tiny payout. However, a gambling establishment requires you to fill out a W-2G form on big prizes.

Casinos, poker venues, and sportsbook issue W-2G’s under the following circumstances:

  • $600 and above for horse gambling and sports betting wins worth 300x your stake (e.g. $3,000 win / $10 bet = 300x).
  • $1,200 and above for slots and video poker wins.
  • $1,500 and above for keno wins.
  • $5,000 and above for poker-tournament wins.

Remember to Deduct Your Casino Losses

The IRS wants you to report all gambling winnings under any circumstance. State governments that tax gambling payouts expect the same.

However, you can deduct any losses incurred as well. You itemize deductions in a different section of your tax form than where the other income is reported.

Your deduction will be subtracted from whatever you win. Here’s an example:

  • You win $4,000 at a casino.
  • You lose $3,000 while winning this amount.
  • You must report the full $4,000 under “other income.”
  • The $3,000 goes under itemized deductions.
  • $4,000 – $3,000 = $1,000.
  • You’d pay the relevant tax rate on $1k.

More on Itemized Deductions

Itemized deductions constitute expenses that you spend to win money. They differ from a standard deduction, which is basically a lumpsum that’s subtracted from your income.

Standard deductions are easier to deal with. Unfortunately, you must use the itemized variety when concerning gambling.

States and the national government only let you deduct expenses up to the amount of your winnings. For example, you can’t claim $500,000 in itemized deductions on $1,000 in winnings.

If you’re an amateur gambler, meals, hotel stays, entertaining, and gas/plane tickets don’t count as deductions. You must be a professional gambler to deduct items like these. Instead, you can only count what you spend on gambling.

Keep Casino Gambling Records

You should keep track of your gambling winnings and casino bankroll as best you can. This way, you have evidence just in case the IRS audits you.

When keeping records, you want plenty of information. Here’s an example of five important things you can jot down in your records:

  1. Type of gambling/game
  2. Date of gambling session
  3. Location of the sportsbook/poker room/casino
  4. Bankroll at the start of the session
  5. Bankroll at the end of the session

In addition to tracking this info, you should also hold onto other documents that you receive. Bank statements, betting tickets, check copies, and W-2G forms are examples of documentation.

What If You Don’t Pay Taxes on Gambling Winnings?

You may be tempted to avoid reporting winnings from gambling—especially if the money is insignificant. You’ll likely get away with doing so provided you haven’t won big enough to receive a W-2G form.

Of course, I don’t advise failing to report gambling winnings. But you definitely don’t want to avoid reporting wins after receiving a W-2G.

A gambling establishment sends a W-2G copy to the IRS. The latter can easily check this information with their software.

If the IRS catches you not reporting taxes, they’ll probably just send a letter and fine you. However, they can take further action if you refuse to cover the taxes.


Claiming gambling winnings on your taxes varies greatly from one state to the next. Some don’t charge you a dime while others level a large amount.

Of course, you may not really care about the state tax beforehand. If you do win, though, you’ll feel the sting in a state with a high tax rate.

You don’t necessarily need to drive hours away just to avoid high taxes on winnings. However, you might consider taxes if you live near the border of two or more states.

California, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and Wisconsin are currently the five places with the highest rates. If possible, you should avoid these states when gambling for mid or high stakes.

Jan 30 '18 at 17:09

Tax Advice for Casino Players: W2-G Handpay Jackpots, Filing as a 'Pro' and More

The feeling of stress and anxiety that comes when filing taxes can be overwhelming for anyone, but especially for casino players that hit slot jackpots or enjoy other high stakes gaming.

Everyone has a different opinion about how to file, and there are very few resources available that give gamblers peace of mind. That’s why I recently sat down with Ray Kondler of Kondler & Associates. Ray is a Certified Public Accountant based in Atlantic City and Las Vegas.

He’s also one of the top national experts on gambling taxes.

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While Ray works closely with the World Series of Poker, he also serves slot and table players in all 50 states. In our fascinating conversation, Ray gave us the insider’s look at gambling taxes, keys for minimizing the chances of an audit, and tips for paying as little as possible… while staying within the bounds of the law, of course!

Here are the highlights from our great conversation. (You can also watch or listen to the full episode below.)

The First Thing Gamblers Should Know About Taxes

One of the most common questions new gamblers ask is, “When do I have to report my winnings?” The answer actually varies depending on what you play.
Casinos will issue W-2Gs for winnings greater than $1,200 from a slot machine or $5,000 from poker. The moment you hit the jackpot, a casino staff member will bring the W-2G to you at the machine to get a signature (although new technology is emerging in high limit slot areas that lets players electronically sign the W-2G so they can get back to playing right away). The casino sends a copy of all W-2Gs to the IRS.
(Table game players don't face the same level of scrutiny. Casinos don't issue W-2Gs for table games like craps and blackjack.)
Did you know that the IRS matches up the W-2Gs the casino sends with your tax return?
This is extremely important! If you fail to file those winnings on your tax return, in most cases, the IRS will send a notice asking you to amend your return.
Want to protect yourself from an audit? Download our FREE Casino Player's Logbook to start keeping better records of your gambling activity.

As Ray points out, this practice isn’t limited to land-based casinos. Cruise lines also issue W-2Gs, and US Citizens are required to pay tax on gambling income earned worldwide — not just in the US.
The bottom line is, if you receive a W-2G, don’t ignore it. The IRS sure won't...
Once gamblers know which winnings to report, the next question is usually, “How do I minimize my tax bill?”

Filing as a Professional Gambler

When Ray sits down with a client, one of the first decisions they make is whether the player should register as a professional gambler.
Most slot players wouldn't even think of filing as a professional. (To be honest, I didn't even know that was an option before speaking with Ray). For slot players, especially retirees or those with limited other income, filing as a professional gambler comes with a unique set of advantages.
In most states, a normal casino player (aka amateur gambler) can only write off casino losses up to their total winnings. So, for example, if you have $100,000 in W-2G winnings, but lost $150,000 during the year, you can only write off $100,000 of losses when filing taes.
***Note: some states (Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, West Virginia, and Wisconsin) do not allow amateur gamblers to deduct gambling losses from their winnings. The only way around this is to file as a professional and deduct losses as an “expense of doing business” on a Schedule C.
On the other hand, a professional gambler can deduct other expenses associated with their casino play (it's a JOB after all - ha!). If they have $100,000 in W-2Gs, they can write off $100,000 in losses AND subscriptions to gambling resources, travel and meal expenses, home office expenses, and legal/professional fees. Professionals can then actually show a net loss on their Schedule C (Self-Employment) tax return and deduct it against their other income (like taxable Social Security income).
So who can qualify as a professional?
It turns out, qualifying as a pro isn’t based on winnings. It’s actually based on how much time someone spends gambling. Someone who plays slots five or six hours per day and has no other job could most likely file as a professional. This is especially useful for gambling retirees!
When advising retired clients, Ray recommends filing as a professional as soon as their Social Security income is taxable (over $40,000). This allows any below-the-line gambling losses to reduce taxable income.
Filing as a professional makes sense for many casino players, but there also are a few downsides to be aware of.
First, filing as a professional increases your chances of being audited.
Another downside is if you file as a professional and win a significant amount, you’ll have to pay Social Security tax.
Depending on the amount of Social Security tax, it may be smarter to file as an amateur. This is something Ray and his team help their clients figure out. They’ll complete the tax returns both as a professional and as an amateur. Then they will see which filing status makes the most sense for the client for that particular year.
It’s also worth noting that filing as either a professional or amateur one year doesn’t lock you in to that status for following years. For example, let’s say you filed 2016 tax return as an amateur gambler. In 2017, you gambled the same amount of time, but due to an increase in winnings, it makes more sense to file as a professional. This is allowed by the IRS. You can decide which filing status is right for you on a year to year basis.

How to Protect Yourself From a Tax Audit

While casual and moderate gamblers have a relatively low chance of being audited, the prospect of being audited is stressful for anyone. Ray says the most important thing you can do to protect yourself is to keep good records.
It might be a pain in the neck, but everyone should keep clear, detailed records — especially if you’re filing as a professional.
Ray recommends using a dedicated credit/debit card to charge all gambling-related expenses. Then keep track of all gambling activity with a logbook.
Want to protect yourself from an audit? Download our FREE Casino Player's Logbook to start keeping better records of your gambling activity.

Most of Ray’s clients log their activity in a spreadsheet at the end of the week, but he has many clients that keep daily records. While there are several logging apps available to gamblers, they tend to be clunky or difficult to use. Some clients use old-fashioned pencil and paper, but Ray recommends keeping a spreadsheet.
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The team at Kondler & Associates have even created several logbook spreadsheet templates they send to their clients to simplify the process.
Some gamblers think of keeping logbooks as an unnecessary step. Instead, they simply rely on the win-loss statements casinos send out to their loyalty club members. This can be effective, but any gambling done at other casinos (where they don’t have a loyalty card), isn’t reflected in those statements.
By keeping a logbook, you can ensure your losses at any casino (even those where you aren’t a loyalty member) are accounted for in your taxes. This lowers your tax bill and protects you
Ray also points out that even if you failed to keep a good logbook in the past, you can go back and recreate it. In the event of an audit, the IRS can request ATM receipts to prove your records are accurate. But if you claim to have gambled with cash from a safe deposit box, no one can prove otherwise.
Another thing to consider for slot players is how to handle the tax liability from a 'group pull'jackpot (for those that don't know, this is where a group pools money and hits the high limit slots in search of JACKPOTS). Let's say you and four other players decide to throw equal money into a pot and hit the high-limit slot rooms. If the group hits the jackpot, only ONE person will sign the W-2G, meaning that person accepts all of the tax liability (even though they only took 20% of the winnings!).
The way to avoid getting stuck footing the entire tax bill is to document the payouts with 1099s. If you win a big jackpot in a group pull, make sure to gather the other players’ full names, addresses, and Social Security numbers before handing out the money. Then issue a 1099 to each player for their share of the winnings.
If you do the extra step of issuing 1099s to the people in the winning group pull, then when you file your taxes, you can feel comfortable only claiming your 20% take of the jackpot on your tax return because you'll have a nice paper trail to show the IRS if they come sniffing around.

California Casino Jackpot Tax Collector

Comps and the IRS

When casinos issue comps, gamblers can potentially receive incentives worth thousands upon thousands of dollars. So, how does the IRS tax these comps?

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The short answer is they don’t tax comps.
In over 30 years of working as a CPA, Ray has never seen a 1099 issued for comps. This would be a record-keeping nightmare for casinos if they had to document every meal or lodging comp for tax purposes.
He has seen 1099s issued for prizes though. For example, if there’s a drawing and you win $2000, you’ll receive a 1099 for “other income”. This is also true for prize winnings like free cars or other expensive merchandise. While it’s different from a W-2G, it’s still required to report on your taxes, but these are extraordinary circumstances.
Regarding normal comps, there’s no need to report them as income.

Professional Help for Gambling Taxes

Whether you’re a slot player, table gamer, or poker player, there’s a good chance you’d rather spend your time playing than worrying about taxes.
There are a lot of extremely talented CPAs all around the country, but many don't have a clue how to minimize tax winnings because they rarely see it. Ray's team works on minimizing tax exposure from gambling winnings all day every day
So, if you have any questions about gambling taxes, feel free to reach out to Kondler & Associates HERE. They never charge for calls or emails, and they’re extremely quick to reply. They’re an incredibly valuable resource, so don’t hesitate to reach out. For more on Ray and his firm Kondler & Associates, visit
Want to protect yourself from an audit? Download our FREE Casino Player's Logbook to start keeping better records of your gambling activity.

FEB 3 '18
I'd like to add a little color to this article by pointing out a few changes that will go into effect for the 2018 tax year as a result of the new tax bill. Professional gamblers used to be able to deduct expenses as well as offset winnings with losses. The new way, their deduction is capped at the amount of winnings. More significantly, for mid-rollers like myself (I do $4,000 - $5,000 a day coin on slots over about 28 days a year in Vegas; some years I have no handpays and some years I have a few) - while it is true that winnings can still be offset with losses if you itemize, because of the increase in the standard deduction as well as the elimination of the personal exemption(s) and capping of property/state tax deduction at $10,000, the threshold for itemizing has basically been doubled. Whereas in the past, I have always been able to totally offset W-2G winnings with losses, with the new law and my current level of still allowed itemizable deductions (mortgage interest and property/state income tax) I would now have to have at least $12,000 in W-2Gs to be able to itemize, and even then, I would still end up paying Fed taxes on that first $12,000. Finally, with respect to group pulls - I've organized several and I have always been lucky to have a UK resident participating who is not subject to taxes OR withholding. Under the new tax law, I will not do one unless that condition is present. I'm not saying you shouldn't do one, they're a lot of fun, but if you do, make sure you consider the tax implications and discuss how you are going to handle a handpay with the participants ahead of the event. Hitting a big win and then determining that 12% or 22% or more is going to have to come off the top is not going to be a welcome surprise to the group.

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FEB 6 '18