Gambling Legislation

California legislator wants to ban the state’s cardrooms

California legislator wants to ban the state's cardrooms

Senator Josh Newman may be on a mission to eliminate poker rooms across California

Last November, California voters refused Proposition 26, a ballot measure that would have legalized roulette and dice games at tribal casinos and permitted them to dictate which games are offered at California cardrooms. However, this isn’t stopping a state senator from trying again.

If voters had approved the initiative, the measures would have probably put the state’s cardrooms out of business. California cardrooms supply an important source of tax revenue for local government general funds, education, public safety, infrastructure, homelessness and public health.

Some cities may have also been compelled to enforce budget cuts or get driven into bankruptcy. For example, the Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens delivers 78% of the city’s tax revenue, and the Commerce Casino furnishes 50% of the city’s income.

Despite the harsh economic impacts, Senator Josh Newman is sponsoring and driving a bill comparable to Prop. 26. SB 549, the Tribal Declaratory Relief Act of 2023, would give tribal nations a new Private Attorney General Act (PAGA).

Newman is on a quest to force cardrooms out of California, even though voters and the courts refused Prop. 26. PAGA would permit affluent gaming tribes to sue cardrooms and the state to prevent cardrooms in California from offering thousands of approved games.

The California Cardroom Alliance says the economic damage will happen quickly. Lawsuits filed under PAGA would disrupt banking services while suits are pending, putting cities at risk, along with the 30,000 cardroom employees and small business owners who support them.

The bill also presents serious questions about the legality of the division of powers and the role the courts would play involving judgments made by the Attorney General.

SB 549 would open any or all legal games to court challenges, which would have to be adjudicated, meaning the court must examine the games’ rules and implementation, which could clog the court system for years.

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