Gaming Regulators Shut Down CA Cardroom Over Unpaid Licensing Fees

Written By Mike Breen on February 9, 2024 - Last Updated on February 13, 2024
A picture of a 'closed' sign for a story about regulators shuttering a CA cardroom.

In its latest meeting, the California Gambling Control Commission voted to temporarily close a cardroom in northeastern California due to unpaid licensing fees.

Commissioners unanimously approved the closure of St. Charles Place in Downieville. The closure is effective immediately and extends through March 31 or until the fees are paid.

St. Charles Place is a pub offering food and drinks that sits along the Yuba River in the Tahoe National Forest region in Sierra County. However, it is also among the licensed California cardrooms.

Downieville cardroom one of nine regulators considered closing

The commission says there are 82 active California cardrooms. Besides several variations of poker, some offer EZ Baccarat and blackjack.

St. Charles Place’s closing was pursuant to Section 19955 of the California Business and Professions Code. The section dictates that if a business fails to pay its annual fees on time, the commission can order a temporary closure of up to 90 days.

If the fees remain unpaid after 90 days, the establishment’s state gambling license is surrendered.

Coming into the commission’s Feb. 8 meeting, St. Charles Place was one of nine cardrooms it was considering closing. The others, which the commission voted to take no action on due to subsequent licensing payments, were:

  • Bruce’s Bar and Casino in Blythe (Riverside County)
  • Central Coast Casino in Grover Beach (San Luis Obispo County)
  • La Primavera Pool Hall & Cafe in Madera (Madera County)
  • Epoch Casino in Rancho Cordova (Sacramento County)
  • Mike’s Card Casino in Oakdale (Stanislaus County)
  • Pinnacle Casino in Soledad (Monterey County)
  • Tommy’s Casino & Saloon in El Centro (Imperial County)
  • Towers Casino in Grass Valley (Nevada County)

California tribal casinos’ opposition to cardrooms

According to the commission, there are currently 2,220 tables available at California cardrooms. Last year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill effectively banning new cardroom expansion for the next 20 years.

The law was meant to placate California’s tribal-owned casinos, which have been at odds with cardrooms over competition for decades.

In 2022, the state’s tribal gaming interests supported California’s expansion into sports betting via Proposition 26, which would have legalized sports wagering only at tribal casinos. It would have also made it easier for tribes to sue owners of cardrooms. The owners helped fund an opposition campaign against Prop 26, and the measure ultimately was voted down by California voters.

More recently, a bill that would again allow tribal casinos to sue cardrooms has been working its way through the California State Assembly. Senate Bill 549, which recently advanced to the Governmental Organization Committee, would let tribal gaming interests take legal action against cardrooms that offer blackjack and certain other card games.

Legally, tribal casinos have exclusive gaming rights to house-backed card games, but some cardrooms have used workarounds to offer them.

Photo by PlayCA
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