Bookmaking, Pool-Selling, and Wagering

Bookmaking, pool-selling, and wagering in California are closely related to gambling and do carry criminal consequences if convicted. Contrary to popular belief, even if someone thought they were acting in a fair and honest way, knowingly participating in these activities is enough to be charged with the crime.

This offense is what is known as a wobbler, which means the prosecution can choose to charge someone with misdemeanor or felony penalties. If convicted, there is the possibility of spending one or more years in county jail or state prison. This is why it is highly recommended you find a criminal defense lawyer to help you.

To gain a deeper sense of what bookmaking, pool-selling, and wagering means, take a look at how California defines it.

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California Definition of Bookmaking, Pool-Selling, and Wagering

The state outlines what bookmaking, pool-selling, and wagering are under Penal Code 337. Someone violates this law if they:

  • Knowingly engaged in;
  • Any of these activities;
    • Bookmaking,
    • Pool-selling,
    • Occupying an enclosed space, building, room, or similar area to record wagers or bets,
    • Forwarded, held, or received money or other valuable objects that are being used in the wager,
    • Record or register bets,
    • Permit an area, such as a building, room, or similar space that you own, lease, or occupy to be used for activities prohibited under PC 337, and
    • Placing or accepting any bets.

Knowingly engaging in such activities means the defendant understood what they were doing. Different sections of this statute define what these terms mean. PC 337a specifically covers the act of bookmaking and pool-selling.

What is bookmaking?

Bookmaking is explained as willingly taking bets, either vocally, through a recording, or in writing. In other words, someone can be guilty of bookmaking for accepting oral statements for a bet, taking a phone call, a video, or a voice message of a bet, or accepting a written bet.

What is pool-selling?

Someone is guilty of pool-selling if they sell or distribute chances or shares from one or more betting pools.

What is wagering?

For this statute, a wager is a bet, deal, or agreement between individuals (usually two or more) who bet on a future event and mutually agree that the loser pays money to the people who won or surrenders an object of value.

What qualifies as occupying a place or space for bookmaking or pool-selling?

A PC 337 offense also applies in situations where:

  • Someone kept or occupied a place for any period,
    • A place or space can mean any part or the entirety of a room, building, stand, stall, shed, tent, vehicle, boat, other vessels, or an enclosure of any kind.
  • They kept or occupied that specific space with the intent to or for the purposes of using it to record or register bets or shares in a betting pool,
    • This space contains books, papers, devices, writing apparatuses, or other paraphernalia that is used for recording or registering bets or shares in a betting pool, OR
    • They possessed such items, intending to use them for recording or registering bets or shares in betting pools.

California PC 330 – Gaming;

This law prohibits the act of gambling, such as dealing, playing, or carrying on in a banking or percentage game, typically played with cards, dice, or similar devices, for money.

California PC 332 – Gambling fraud;

You commit this crime if you fraudulently acquire someone else’s money or property by using card games, tricks, betting, gambling, or with false promises of fortune-telling.

California PC 186.10 – Money laundering;

This statute explains the crime of obtaining money or currency from criminal or other unlawful activities and funneling it into bank accounts, businesses, firms, or other financial accounts so that the funds sources will be untraceable.

California PC 488 – Petty theft;

This law makes it a crime to steal another person’s money and/or property and what was stolen is worth $950 or less.

California PC 487 – Grand theft;

This law makes it a crime to steal another person’s money and/or property and that property or currency is worth over $950.

What The Prosecution Must Do

Certain facts of the case must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for the prosecution to get a conviction. These factors are known as the elements of the crime. If all the elements are met, based on the details of the case, the prosecution will consider two options. They have the discretion to charge the offense as either a misdemeanor or felony.

Elements of the Crime

There are two main factors taken into consideration when analyzing the defendant’s actions for PC 337 or PC 337a.

  • The defendant can be convicted if they knowingly engaged in,
    • Knowingly means they were fully aware of what was happening, aware of their actions, and understood would it all entailed.
  • One or more of the following activities;
    • Bookmaking,
    • Pool-selling,
    • Occupied an enclosed space, building, room, or similar area to record the wagers or bets,
    • Forward, hold, or receive money or other valuable objects that are being used in the wager,
    • Record or register bets,
    • Permitting/allowing an area, such as a building, room, or similar space that you own, lease, or occupy to be used for activities prohibited under PC 337 or PC 337a, and
    • Placing or accepting any bets.

Cases, where the details include the defendant allegedly committing more than one of the unlawful activities only increase the chances of a possible indictment. For instance, this means a bookie can be guilty of bookmaking, pool-selling, and wagering if they committed all three acts.

Who Can Face Charges

Take a look at these examples to get a better idea of who can be charged with PC 337.

Example 1: Occupying Space

Danny is a savant at guessing the outcomes of sporting events, regardless of the sport. He wanted a fast way to make some big money and leave town. He trades in his motorcycle for a pull-along camper and attaches it to his jeep. He set up his camper with all the computer equipment and office supplies he would need to run a successful bookmaking gig. He planned on moving from one parking lot to the next when accepting bets, thinking the busy lots would provide him decent coverage. His ex-roommate reported Danny after they found an old notebook that listed the wins and losses of NFL teams with dollar signs written next to the wins.

Even though Danny had yet to take any bets or wagers on a sporting event, he is still guilty of PC 337 simply for preparing the camper for bookmaking. The camper is considered an enclosed space that he specifically bought and planned to use as a bet-taking hub. Also having the bookmaking devices (computer and office supplies) to assist in his bookmaking plans is enough to face this offense. Danny would be charged with PC 337 for occupying a space (camper) for the purposes of bookmaking even though he had not taken any wagers.

Example 2: Receiving or Holding

Sandra was trying to make quick cash to pay for college and found a gig as a messenger. The job entailed receiving or holding people’s sport’s bets and delivering them to a bookie. Her backpack carried envelopes full of money with initials written on them. She rode the trolley to National City and as she was exiting the trolley car her bag got caught on a handlebar which ended up ripping the bag open. The envelopes spilled onto the pavement. Traffic police were present and suspected Sandra of criminal activity when they saw the marked envelopes.

Sandra knowingly received and held these cash bets. She was the one who wrote the gambler’s initials on the envelopes. She could be charged with PC 337a for receiving, holding, and forwarding money for wagering to a bookie.

Example 3: Permitting Use of Space

Winston owned several warehouses that no businesses were interested in leasing or purchasing. His cousin, Lou, was frequently betting on horse races and suggested Winston let some of his friends rent a warehouse or two for bookmaking, pool-selling, and wagering. Winston was tired of not turning a profit on his properties, so he agreed. He told Lou he didn’t care what went on, as long as the rent was paid in advance. Winston ended up leasing one warehouse for bookmaking and pool-selling while the second warehouse was used for wagering on cockfights.

Although Winston was not directly involved in bookmaking, pool-selling, or accepting wagers, he permitted his cousin Lou to use the properties he owned as a hub for those activities. Winston could be charged with PC 337a for permitting his place (the warehouse) to be used for bookmaking and pool-selling. Winston could face multiple counts for PC 337, wagering because the second warehouse was used in cockfights.

Lou would be guilty of the same crimes under PC 337 and would also have to face a PC 597(b) offense for hosting a cockfighting event and accepting wagers on it.

Example 4: Make, Offer, or Accept

Ashley loved to gamble, often going to Sycuan Casino and Viejas Casino every weekend. One weekend she couldn’t go so she opted for friendly games of poker at the bar up the street. No one was playing, so she turned her attention to the boxing event on the big screen TV. A group of people were visibly intent on the match. When she asked why they were so serious, they told her wagers were going on the winner. Missing her gambling she decided to bet $300 on who she thought would win.

Ashley could be charged with PC 337 for making a wager on the sporting event. The act of participating in a wagering pool as a mere gambler is enough to face this offense.

An experienced legal defense team will know what the best legal route would be to dispute illegal gambling accusations. Fortunately, there are common legal defenses that have been used to successfully challenge a PC 337 offense.

Lack of Knowledge

One of the two main factors in being convicted of PC 337 or PC 337a is that the defendant must have known they were involved or participating in bookmaking, pool-selling, or wagering. If they did not know what was going on and had no idea of the illegal activity taking place, they should not be guilty of this offense.


Yasinya asked her roommate if she could borrow their car to run some errands. She was pulled over for speeding and when she opened the glove compartment to retrieve the registration and insurance information, a manila envelop dropped out and money spilled from it. The envelope had a list of names with different dollar amounts written beside them. Yasinya was suspected of receiving wagers and charged with PC 337.

In this case, Yasinya did not know all the contents of the glove compartment, let alone about the manila envelop full of money. She would not be guilty of forwarding, receiving, or holding bets.

Cases of Duress

If intimidation, threats, fear, or force were used on the defendant to make them commit unlawful activities, then their willingness to commit a crime is automatically questioned. Would they have participated, either directly or indirectly in these activities if they were not under duress? This kind of pressure is another form of coercion, in which someone can force an individual to do something they never wanted to do, either because they feared for their safety or well-being or that of their immediate family members.


Uriah owned an apartment complex and had two apartments for rent. His cousin, Pete, had just gotten out of jail and needed a place to stay. Uriah offered him one of the empty spaces in his building, rent-free for the first three months. In the fourth month, Uriah went to Pete to discuss employment updates, rent, and utility bills.

When Pete invited him in, Uriah noticed bookmaking equipment on the kitchen table along with rolls of money and pink slips, which he assumed were from vehicles. He guessed what Pete was up to and asked that he move out. Pete refused and threatened to burn down the complex and “take care of you” if Uriah turned him in. Uriah believed him and kept his mouth shut.

Pete was eventually caught and arrested for PC 337a. He told the police that Uriah knew about his activities and let him live there. Uriah was arrested and charged with permitting PC 337 activities to take place on property he owned.

Yes, Uriah knew about the illegal activities transpiring in his building, however, he was under a credible threat if he did not allow it to continue. This means he seriously believed Pete was capable of following through with his threats. Uriah truly feared for his life, believing “take care of you” meant Pete would kill him and get rid of the evidence. Under these circumstances, Uriah would not be guilty of PC 337.

Lack of evidence

To be guilty of bookmaking or pool-selling, the defendant must have had items, supplies, or related paraphernalia in the space being used for the activities. Such items include any ledgers in book format or on a computer, notes regarding the wagers, or money envelopes with gamblers’ bets written on them.

To be charged for merely gambling or wagering under PC 337, the defendant must have made a bet either orally, electronically (such as a voice or video message), or in writing (either on paper or via text or email).

If the investigating officers or prosecution lacks any paraphernalia or proof that PC 337a took place, then the charge should not apply. If they also fail to present evidence of any type of wagering, then the defendant should not be guilty.

Penalties for PC 337

Remember, this offense is a wobbler and you could very well face misdemeanor or felony penalties. The defendant’s past criminal history as well as the details surrounding the alleged prohibited activities will influence the final decision.

If convicted of bookmaking, pool-selling, or wagering the defendant will face:


Summary (misdemeanor) probation,

As long as one year in county jail, and/or

Fines as high as five thousand dollars.


Formal (felony) probation,

16 months, 2 or 3 years in state prison, and/or

Up to five thousand dollars in fines.

The legal punishments are increased in cases where the defendant is guilty of subsequent offenses. If convicted of PC 337(a) with one prior offense on record and the defendant did not have to serve time in state prison, they must then:

1st Prior Offense

  • Serve a minimum of one year in county jail, and/or
  • Pay a minimum fine of one thousand dollars or up to ten thousand dollars maximum.

2nd Or More Prior Offenses

If there are two or more prior offenses for bookmaking, pool-selling, or wagering you face:

  • A maximum required fine of fifteen thousand dollars.

What if you are not sentenced to jail time?

Even in cases where the conviction results in probation or zero time-served, the defendant would still be responsible for paying the required fines.

Enhanced Penalties

Further consequences will apply in cases where other criminal activities took place. For instance, if the defendant was also guilty of dogfighting, they could face legal consequences for PC 597.5 in addition to the penalties for a PC 337 conviction.

Take a look at the felony punishments for PC 337 and dogfighting. Not only would a defendant be facing up to three years in state prison and up to five thousand dollars in fines for bookmaking, pool-selling, or wagering, but they would also have to contend with an additional 16 months, 2 or 3 years in county jail along with upwards of fifty thousand dollars in fines for a felony dogfighting conviction.

Anyone facing multiple offenses or possible enhanced penalties should make finding an effective legal defense lawyer their priority. It could mean the difference between the maximum penalties or achieving the most desirable outcome.

Unfortunately, cases in which defendants face multiple offenses are quite common. If you or someone you are concerned about faces this type of situation, consider getting the help of a highly-trusted legal defense attorney. An expert criminal defense lawyer can challenge the allegations and succeed in lowering the penalties, even in cases where multiple offenses are being charged.

California PC 330 – Gaming;


As long as six months in county jail, and/or

A minimum fine of one hundred dollars to a maximum of one thousand dollars.

California PC 332 – Gambling fraud;


Informal (summary) probation,

As long as six months in county jail if obtained or stolen property is valued at or under $950, or

A potential one year in county jail if the stolen property was worth over $950, and/or

Up to one thousand dollars in fines.


Formal (felony) probation;

16 months, 2 or 3 years in county jail, and/or

Fines of up to five thousand dollars for the first offense, or

Potential fines of up to ten thousand dollars for subsequent offenses.

California PC 186.10 – Money laundering;


A potential one year in county jail, and/or

Up to one thousand dollars in fines.


16 months, 2 years or 3 years in county jail, and/or

Fines of up to two-hundred-fifty-thousand dollars, or

Fines equal to twice the amount of money laundered (whatever total is greater).

California PC 488 – Petty theft;


As long as six months in county jail, and/or

As much as one thousand dollars in fines.

California PC 487 – Grand theft;


A potential one year in county jail.


As long as one year in county jail, and/or

16 months, 2 or 3 years in county jail.

We Can Help

Facing a PC 337 offense or any of the associated offenses can be overwhelming without the right help. If you or someone you love is located in Los Angeles, Orange County, or San Diego and needs legal assistance, contact the Law Offices of Anna R. Yum.

Attorney Yum has gained accolades as a top-rated legal defense lawyer. Attorney Yum understands how hard the prosecution will fight to get a conviction and knows what it takes to successfully fight for your rights.

To schedule your no-obligation, free consultation simply call us at 619-233-4433 or use our convenient online contact form. We welcome all inquiries and are here to help.