California Cardroom Owner Makes Bid For U.S. Congressional Seat

Written By Dan Holmes on January 6, 2024 - Last Updated on January 8, 2024
A photo of the U.S. Congress during the 2018 State of the Union address for a story about a CA cardroom owner running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

A cardroom owner from Fresno is planning to run for a U.S. Congressional seat. If he wins, he’ll fill the vacant seat of former Speaker of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy.

Kyle Kirkland owns Club One Casino in Fresno. The California card room primarily runs poker games on more than 50 tables.

But Kirkland hopes to split his time between the Golden State and the nation’s capital. Recently, he announced he was running for the seat to represent the 20th District of California in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The state primary for the vacant U.S. House seat will be held on March 5. Thus far, Kirkland is the only candidate to announce his candidacy officially. As a result, he’s the only name on the primary ballot so far.

Kirkland already has leadership experience with California Gaming Assocation

Kirkland is the president of the California Gaming Association, an advocacy group that represents more than 60 cardroom operators. According to the CGA, cardrooms generate more than $5.6 billion in revenue and more than 30,000 jobs in California annually.

McCarthy, a Republican, came to national attention as a leader of the pro-Donald Trump bloc in Congress. He was elected Speaker of the House in January 2023 following lengthy votes and negotiations with his own party.

In October, he was suddenly ousted by fellow Republicans. He announced in December that he would resign his seat as California’s 20th District Representative at the end of 2023. Prior to his resignation, Californians elected him to his seat nine times.

McCarthy’s district covers most of the state’s Central Valley, including northeast Bakersfield and sections of Fresno. The district winds its way across four counties: Fresno, Kern, Kings, and Tulare. A special election will be held later this year to fill the seat.

Cardroom owner wants an outsider in Congress

As a guest on the KMJ Now News Talk Radio podcast in December, Kirkland stressed that Washington, D.C. needs new points of view from citizens outside the professional political world.

“I felt like this was an opportunity for a noncareer politician to get involved. I certainly see the issues people are facing and concerned about — the economy, border crisis, unanswered crime,” Kirkland said during the podcast. “If there was ever a time where Congress needed new thinking and someone who is action-oriented and looking for change, it’s now.”

Kirkland has been an advocate for commercial poker rooms and cardrooms in California. He purchased Club One Casino in 2008. The venue is open to patrons 21 and older and has a restaurant with a menu available 24 hours per day.

According to the Club One website, “Except for COVID-19 closures, Club One has been in continuous 24/7 operation since 1995, employs over 200 persons in its facility and contributes to a variety of local non-profits.”

From music to gaming to politics? 

Before his career as a gaming operator, Kirkland was chairman of Steinway Musical Instruments, Inc. and president of Kirkland Messina. He served both roles simultaneously for 18 years. The latter company was a private equity investment consultancy.

Kirkland graduated from Harvard in 1984 with an A.B. in economics. He received his Master of Business Administration from Stanford University Graduate School of Business in 1988.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Kirkland is the president of the Kirkland Foundation, “a 501c3 public charity which supports animal welfare efforts in the Central Valley.” Through that organization, Kirkland gifted more than $1 million to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo in 2023 to help that organization improve and expand exhibits and welfare for its animals.

Photo by AP Photo / Jim Bourg
Dan Holmes Avatar
Written by
Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes is a contributor for PlayCA with plenty of experience under his belt. Dan has written three books about sports and previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. He also has extensive experience covering the launch of sports betting in other states, including Ohio, Massachusetts and Maryland. Currently, Dan is residing in Michigan with his family.

View all posts by Dan Holmes
Privacy Policy