California Cardrooms Want To End ‘Handouts’ for ‘Big Gaming’

Written By David Danzis on September 6, 2022

As the battle over legal California sports betting rages on, other Golden State gambling matters are flying under the radar.

One of those issues came to a head recently in the State Legislature when lawmakers failed to extend a sunsetting moratorium that grants new licenses for California cardrooms and allows existing venues to expand.

In response, a Sacramento-based non-profit representing small and medium-sized cardrooms is launching a media campaign to expose what it describes as “special interests that are trying to abuse the legislative process to diminish competition in the marketplace.”

Communities for California Cardrooms is targeting “big gaming” in a new ad, calling for an end to “dirty tricks” and political “handouts.”


California cardrooms call for ‘flexibility’ to expand

The 30-second ad does not clarify the identity of “big gaming.” However, a CCC press release notes that California has “allowed an unprecedented expansion of gambling with respect to Tribal Casinos” in the years since a 1995 gambling moratorium was enacted.

That agreement is set to expire on Dec. 31. A state Senate committee recently voted 3-3 on a measure that would have extended the moratorium for another year.

“Any conversation centered around extending the moratorium on the expansion of gambling needs to allow more flexibility for local governments so that they can amend their ordinances to add additional tables,” said Clarke Rosa, president of the CCC and owner of Capital Casino in Sacramento. “A moratorium without reasonable table expansion creates a great inequity among local governments who have active gaming ordinances.”

Fighting gambling foes on two fronts

California cardrooms are already fighting against one of the competing sports betting propositions.

Proposition 26 would allow in-person sports betting at California tribal casinos and California horse racing venues, as well as permit roulette and dice games at Indian gambling parlors.

More concerning for California cardrooms is the language in Prop 26, which opens the door for tribal-backed legal challenges to their gambling operations.

Since the cardrooms do not stand to benefit from the passage of Proposition 27, which would legalize online sports betting in California, they are focusing their efforts on defeating Prop 26 in November.

Rallying around California cardrooms

At the same time, elected officials representing cardroom host municipalities are sounding alarms about Prop 26. They say Prop 26 would cost millions of dollars in local tax revenue and economic activity, in addition to thousands of lost jobs and the possibility of lost community programs.

The new CCC ad echoes those concerns. Here’s a portion of the ad:

“Big gaming is at it again, slipping a job-killing moratorium on local community cardrooms into the final hours of this year’s legislative session. Nice try but California’s voters see you. Big gaming-funded policies have already driven the loss of half of our state’s cardrooms, costing thousands of jobs and local communities millions of dollars a year. Californians have had enough. It’s time to put local communities before big gaming.”

The CCC says the expiring moratorium has been at the forefront of stakeholder negotiations for the past five years. They want state lawmakers to establish a new moratorium that would allow their licensed cardrooms to expand the number of tables with local government approval.

“A continuation of the status quo is unacceptable,” Rosa said in the press release. “Local governments need the flexibility to amend their ordinances to add additional tables, as each table can generate a tremendous amount of living wage jobs and tax revenues.”

Photo by Communities for California Cardrooms
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David Danzis

David Danzis is a lead writer and analyst for CatenaMedia's network of Play sites, appearing on PlayNJ, PlayCA and PlayOH. He is a New Jersey native and an honors graduate of Rutgers University. As a newspaper reporter for the New Jersey Herald and Press of Atlantic City, David earned statewide awards for his coverage of politics, government, education, sports, and business. After years of reporting on Atlantic City casinos, NJ online gambling and sports betting, his focus is now on emerging gaming markets. David lives in NJ with his wife and two children. When not on the beach, golf course, or snowboarding, David enjoys watching his beloved New York sports teams — Yankees, Jets, Rangers, and Knicks.

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