Last week, California legislators overwhelmingly passed a bill to reenact a moratorium on new card room licenses in the state.
The measure passed with a 68-1 margin in the California State Assembly. It must pass the State Senate before the bill heads to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.
At the start of the year, two key provisions of the Gambling Control Act of 1997 expired. These sections included a moratorium on issuing new California cardroom licenses.
However, last Thursday’s vote on Assembly Bill 341 is the first step in restoring a ban on new California cardrooms.
Bill extends moratorium but allows internal expansion
In addition, AB341 allows wiggle room to permit existing card room licensees to add tables to its operation. Card rooms with less than 20 tables can add up to 10 new tables over the next 20 years. Other licensed operators could add up to two tables in the first year and up to two more tables every four years.
Assemblymember James Ramos of San Bernadino introduced the bill. It picked up support from tribal leaders in favor of measured, responsible growth of card rooms and other groups involved in California gambling.
The California Cardroom Alliance, California Nations Indian Gaming Association, Communities for California Cardrooms, and California Cities for Self-Reliance JPA are among the organizations supporting the legislation.
Unsurprisingly, several tribal nations support AB341. These tribes even sponsored the bill:
- Cahuilla Band of Indians
- Morongo Band of Mission Indians
- Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians
- San Manuel Band of Mission Indians
- Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians
- Soboda Band of Luiseno Indians
The bill is one of the few times where tribes and card rooms support the same legal measure. The Gambling Control Act of 1997 expired on New Year’s Day.
Afterward, existing card room operators criticized expanding the number of state-sanctioned card rooms. They feared oversaturation of the market would drive down the popularity of card rooms that had built a client base for over 20 years.
Last November, many card room operators opposed Prop 26, one of the two sports betting initiatives, because it allowed tribal sports betting operators to sue card rooms over certain games they spread.
Will the California Senate pass bill to extend ban on new card rooms?
The bill featured bipartisan support. As a result, it easily passed through the State Assembly.
Democrats and Republicans have drastically different views on many issues, except when it comes to California tribes. Thus, it’s almost certain the bill will pass the Senate and head to Newsom’s desk.
Will Gov. Newsom sign it?
Yes, the governor expressed support for extending the moratorium on new card rooms. He’s also bound to support the new provision to allow for the slow growth of existing card rooms in his state.
The California legislature only allowed the moratorium to expire in January because it ran out of time in the legislative session.
Despite the possibility that new licenses could be issued in the interim, no new card rooms have been opened in California. Those opposed to the possibility have organized and combined their voices in a chorus to squash any new licensures. At the same time, the tribal nations can grow their operations as they choose, but at a conservative pace.
What are California card rooms?
California cardrooms are gambling facilities that allow non-house-backed card games. They mostly spread poker games of varying stakes and variants. They are prohibited from spreading house-backed card games like blackjack. Those games are only spread at California tribal casinos. However, many cardrooms use a third party to back those types of games to avoid the “house-backed” aspect of the law.
Cardrooms are licensed and regulated by the California Gaming Control Commission.
According to the California Gambling Control Commission, there are 59 active card rooms in the state. An additional 25 have licenses, but they are not currently open.
The popular Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens, located between Long Beach and Anaheim, features blackjack and poker games and tournaments that attract many community members.
According to ABC, 70% of the city’s general fund comes from cardroom activity and taxes.