Gambling Legislation

California cardrooms unite to protest legislation that could ban them

California cardrooms unite to protest legislation that could ban them

A bill that could force cardrooms out of the picture in California is causing friction

Over 100 Los Angeles-area cardroom employees and supporters gathered in Fullerton on December 6 to protest a proposed bill that could lead to revenue and job losses for the industry. The gathering was held outside the office of Democratic state Senator Josh Newman, who sponsors Senate Bill 549, also known as the Tribal Declaratory Relief Act of 2023. The proposal has ignited new tensions in the years-long dispute between cardroom operators and tribal casinos, according to a Los Angeles Daily News report.

Tribal casinos legally offer slot machines, lottery games and “banked” card games, including blackjack, while California cardrooms can only provide “player-dealer” games, such as poker, baccarat and Texas Hold’em.

SB 549 opponents contend that tribal casinos are aiming to eliminate cardrooms. The bill will grant them authority to file lawsuits against cardrooms they suspect of offering “banking card games” exclusive to tribal gaming. Tribal casinos can’t currently sue cardrooms due to their sovereign nation status, according to the report.

California Cardroom Alliance President Keith Sharp highlights that cardrooms have functioned legally for decades and have adhered to regulations set by the California Gambling Control Commission and the Department of Justice.

Challengers worry that SB 549 could make cardrooms unnecessary, with expensive lawsuits from tribal casinos potentially causing substantial job losses and cardroom closures.

“The tax revenue we get from our cardroom represents 68% of our city’s general fund,” said Shavon Moore-Cage, executive assistant to the Hawaiian Gardens city manager, in the report. “For other cities, that might be 18% to 40%, but we are a worst-case scenario. This money funds public safety, after-school programs, senior services, and fire services.”

SB 549 is currently under review by the Assembly Rules Committee and would take effect in early 2024 if approved.

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