Last week, a California raid of an illegal gambling hall netted a bounty of guns, drugs and cash.
More than 70 casinos operate legally in California. Despite that, illegal gaming operations are constantly shut down by police in The Golden State.
Pomona police successfully conducted the raid of a suspected unlicensed gambling operation, detaining at least 40 people. Police found drugs, numerous weapons and cash in the process.
Authorities served a search warrant for a building at the south end of a strip mall at around 5 am. The building had a “For Lease” sign outside. It was formerly a women’s fitness studio that failed to make it through the pandemic.
Police found eight gaming tables, two firearms, a quarter-pound of methamphetamine and what police called “a large amount” of cash.
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office sent out 18 additional officers, mainly to help process arrests. Everyone, however, was let go without any citations or charges.
Related arrest made in nearby Chino
Fifteen minutes down the road in neighboring San Bernardino County, police arrested a person connected to the suspected gambling ring. The person was already on probation for a grand theft charge last year. Court records indicate they were being held on a no-bail warrant.
As of now, no further information is available as to the suspect or their pending charges. It is not known whether additional suspects are involved.
Landscape incentivizes underground games
While the bust is a victory for law enforcement, countless other illegal rings are still running statewide. California has dozens of tribal casinos, with over two dozen in Southern California. Several of those are an hour’s drive from Pomona.
But for a population of nearly 40 million residents, just 86 California cardrooms are in operation. These cardrooms do not offer the full array of games found at casinos. In addition, Proposition 26, one of two California sports betting initiatives on the ballot, would legalize dice and roulette at tribal casinos.
In 1966, the state put a moratorium on issuing new card room licenses. Thus, no new (legal) rooms have opened their doors in over half a century. The law expires in 2023.
The demand to play these games exists. Those who wish to take a risk running illegal games are also often party to other illicit dealings. This creates a risky environment for all involved.
But could change starting next year
Next year, California has an opportunity to change its card room landscape statewide by allowing many more card rooms to gain licensure. Some of the advantages of issuing new licenses are:
- Attracting new owners in legal standing
- Giving patrons a safe, regulated place to play
- Increased local and state tax revenue
Of course, we will have to wait and see what the state does when the moratorium ends. It’s unlikely that hundreds of new cardrooms will start popping up immediately. But any new rooms would be welcome in areas such as the Inland Empire, where only two licensed cardrooms currently exist.