On Jan. 30, California Assemblymember James Ramos introduced a bill that would place a ban on new gambling licenses until Jan. 1, 2043. The bill, AG 341, is meant to prevent more California card room casinos, or poker rooms, from opening.
Ramos’ bill is a direct response to the previous card room moratorium ending Jan. 1. Currently, new poker rooms can be established in California for the first time since 1995. This new bill would shift policy back to the way it’s been for the past 28 years and prevent new card rooms from opening until 2043.
Simultaneously, it would allow cities to create laws allowing existing gambling establishments to add gambling tables over the following timetable:
- Increase gambling tables by two over the first year
- Increase gambling tables by two every four years
- Allow maximum of 10 new gambling tables
These increases would also end on Jan. 1, 2043.
Ramos is the first Native American to be elected to the State Assembly. Card rooms are direct rivals for Indian casinos in California.
Cahuilla Band of Indians Tribal Chairman Daniel Salgado Sr., Morongo Band of Mission Indians Chairman Charles Martin, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Tribal Chairwoman Lynn Valbuena, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Tribal Chairman Kenneth Kahn, and Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians Tribal Chairman Isaiah Vivanco released this statement regarding the proposed card room moratorium bill:
“For over 20 years, California voters have consistently opposed unfettered expansion of gaming across California and have stood with Indian tribes in support of gaming on federally-recognized tribal lands. Tribal casinos have provided a pathway to self-reliance for tribes while supporting over 125,000 jobs statewide and generating billions in economic activity that benefits the state and local communities.
“We believe the proposed legislation by Assemblymember Ramos provides a balance by allowing for a measured expansion of California’s cardroom industry. We look forward to working with the Legislature, the cardroom industry and the tribal community on finding a balance that is consistent with California voters support of tribal gaming.”
Proposed California Card Room Moratorium
Indian casinos are the only gambling facilities allowed to offer slot machines and house-banked table games in California.
Card rooms get around this law by having players compete against each other in poker, and by contracting third-party player proposition services to serve as the house for modified table games.
California tribes have long bemoaned how card rooms get around the law to offer table games. In fact, part of the failed sports betting ballot initiative, Prop 26, was a provision that would allow tribes to directly sue card rooms for any perceived violations of state gambling laws.
The current language in Ramos’ bill isn’t limited to card rooms.
However, because Indian casinos are on reservation land, California laws do not apply to them.
This moratorium would apply to what cities and local jurisdictions could allow in terms of gambling. So, the state government could still legalize new types of gambling, like sports betting. There’s still a path forward for gambling expansion. It just can’t come from the local levels.
This bill was only introduced on Monday, so there’s plenty of time for it to be debated, changed, and clarified. But it could have far-reaching implications for the future of California’s gambling industry.