Lucky Lady Card Room Owner Settles Illegal Bookmaking Charges With State

Posted By Derek Helling on August 24, 2021

A legal dispute over alleged bookmaking at a California card room that has been ongoing for about seven years finally has a resolution.

The state recently announced a settlement with Lucky Lady Casino and Card Room settlement that, among other things, means the end for the gambling establishment.

Recently, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the state’s dropping of the charges in exchange for the proprietor of the business agreeing to pay fines and make other concessions. Despite whatever Lucky Lady took in from the illegal activity, this situation probably still represents a net loss.

Details of the Lucky Lady settlement

Lucky Lady, a Southern California card room in San Diego, once had 11 tables running simultaneously. It closed, however, due to the state’s COVID-19 protocol in March 2020. Now, it’s certain it will never reopen.

The revocation of the card room’s license is just part of the settlement, however. The owner, Stanley S. Penn, will also pay $125,000 in penalties and another $50,000 to reimburse the state for its regulatory expenses.

Suffice to say, any future attempts at applying for a gaming license connected to Penn will probably fail. While Penn will not face any incarceration, his time in the California gambling business is likely done.

Regulators originally unsealed the indictment against Penn in July 2016. That was the result of investigations that began in 2014. Initially, an emergency order from the state’s Bureau of Gambling Control ordered the business to remove Penn from daily operations, so he hasn’t been involved with Lucky Lady for years already.

It’s unknown if another entity will make a go of running a new card room in the facility. Should that prove the case, there may be legal avenues for bookmaking on the horizon.

New ballot initiative would cut in card rooms

A ballot measure that seems destined for 2022’s midterms would limit legal sports betting in CA to retail books inside tribal casinos. But it might have competition.

In fact, FanDuel recently made a contribution to the state’s Democratic Party. That coincided with the launch of a petition to put a competing question on next year’s ballot.

Among others, it would allow CA card rooms to offer sports betting on their premises. Supporters must accumulate at least 997,139 signatures from eligible California voters to qualify for the ballot.

If both questions appear on next year’s ballot, the one that gets a higher percentage of approval will take precedent where they might conflict. It’s possible just one could get the requisite 50% plus one vote to become law, though.

Another possibility is that neither amendment would pass. That’s exactly what tribal casino leaders in the state have said they will push for if the alternative is giving up their control of gaming in California.

Until regulated wagering launches in the state, until card rooms take part, the penalties for doing so illegally remain steep. For California card rooms, getting caught means a death sentence.

Photo by AP / Paul Kitagaki Jr.
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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