January 12, 2024 3 min read

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Cardrooms in California Challenge Tribal Lawsuit Proposal

Tribes and cardrooms in the state clash, while a proposal that would enable them to resolve matters in state court gains traction

An ongoing battle between cardrooms and Indian tribes in California intensifies with the start of the new legislative session. On one hand, the cardrooms challenge a proposal that would enable tribes to file lawsuits against them, challenging whether their offering is legal. Currently, the legal status of cardrooms across the state is ambiguous. Nearly 100 such locations operate across California.

Yet, according to the tribes, cardrooms violate their exclusivity on offering banked card games by providing games such as baccarat and blackjack. Usually, blackjack and baccarat are known as house-banked card games. However, cardrooms have found a way to offer such games by substituting the bank with players who act like a bank, and this is precisely why tribes are discontent with the cardrooms.

With claims and accusations from one side and the other, Sen. Josh Newman last year showed support for Senate Bill 549 (SB 549), a proposal that seeks to enable tribes and cardrooms to resolve their claims in court. The bill was proposed at a time when cardrooms hinted at plans to expand their portfolio of games, actions that can make them competitors to tribal casinos across the state.

Last week, SB 549 gained traction after it was assigned to the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee. In light of this, as announced by PlayUSA, cardrooms’ representatives organized a meeting in front of the Capitol Building in Sacramento this week, taking a firm stance against SB 549. Kyle Kirkland, California Gaming Association’s president, commented: “SB 549 is unnecessary and puts at stake the budgets of dozens of primarily underserved cities across the state during a $30+ billion state budget shortfall and recession.” He criticized the proposal, saying that it would “benefit a few wealthy gaming tribes who already do not pay state gaming or income taxes.”

Cardrooms Shift Their Position

Under the existing laws, tribes cannot be sued or sue companies or organizations in state courts. However, if SB 549 is approved, tribes will be granted an exception to sue cardrooms if they want to challenge them over the legality of offering baccarat and blackjack games. While tribes will have that option, this doesn’t guarantee that a state court ruling would be in their favor.

It’s kind of interesting how the cardroom narrative shifted over time from we’re not doing anything wrong to they’re trying to kill our business to turn a blind eye to what we’re doing because the tribes are doing something illegal and we can’t do anything about it.

Tuari Bigknife, attorney general for the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians

Tuari Bigknife, attorney general for the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, criticized the cardrooms’ shifting position. He outlined that while cardrooms continue to change their position, they do not recognize that the tribes offer legal forms of gambling. “They’re saying everything else,” explained Bigknife.

Journalist

Jerome is a welcome new addition to the Gambling News team, bringing years of journalistic experience within the iGaming sector. His interest in the industry begun after he graduated from college where he played in regular local poker tournaments which eventually lead to exposure towards the growing popularity of online poker and casino rooms. Jerome now puts all the knowledge he's accrued to fuel his passion for journalism, providing our team with the latest scoops online.

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