Legislative bill reignites tribal casino-card room dispute in California
In the ongoing conflict between tribal casinos and card room operators, a resurgence of tension is anticipated as state legislators resume their sessions. A pivotal bill, Senate Bill 549, is set to be deliberated upon, potentially allowing tribal nations to initiate civil actions against card rooms.
The bill proposes a limited three-month timeframe in 2024 for tribal nations to pursue legal recourse against card rooms, particularly in matters concerning the types of games they offer, various media reports said. Notably, this proposition was previously rejected by the public in the form of Proposition 26 during the last year's ballot.
Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), the author of SB 549, reintroduced the contentious issue when the bill passed the Senate earlier this year. Senator Newman incorporated language from the rejected Proposition 26, reigniting the clash between tribal entities and poker establishments. Central to the conflict are provisions in California law mandating equal opportunities for all players in card rooms to assume the role of the dealer through rotations.
The roots of this dispute lie in the arrangement whereby tribal nations were granted the authority to operate independent casinos, as sanctioned by the federal government. This arrangement aimed to provide the tribes with enhanced control over their economic development, Axios reported. Following the endorsement of a constitutional amendment by California voters in 2000, Native American tribes owning casinos witnessed augmented employment rates and reduced mortality rates within their communities.
The crux of the matter for casino-owning tribes is that card rooms, particularly those offering games like blackjack, have expanded their operations into tribal territories. The primary distinction between tribal casinos and card rooms pertains to the range of games they are permitted to host. As per the report, federally recognized tribes possess the liberty to offer a variety of games, including slot machines, lottery games, and “banked” card games, where the casino serves as the bank overseeing wagers. In contrast, card rooms are restricted to offering “player-dealer” games, such as poker and pai gow.
In recent times, tribal casinos have lodged allegations against card rooms, including some situated in San José, asserting that these establishments are transgressing gambling laws and encroaching upon their exclusive rights by providing “banked” card games.
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