February 22, 2024 3 min read


Tribes in California Allege $100M Annual Losses to Cardrooms

The shocking claim points to data collected during the pandemic when cardrooms were shut but tribal operators kept their casinos open

The battle between Indian tribes in California and the state’s cardrooms has been ongoing for years. There are nearly 100 cardrooms that operate across the state and their status is rather complex. While Indian tribes in the state have exclusivity over specific gambling games, they allege that cardrooms violate this exclusivity by offering banked card games but under the condition that a player acts like a bank. This otherwise circumvents the exclusivity and according to the Indian tribes, results in millions in losses.

During a recent meeting, representatives of Indian tribes warned about the negative impact of cardrooms, presenting data about losses in excess of millions annually. A report released by US Bets uncovered more details regarding the Western Indian Gaming Conference at the Pechanga Casino Resort which included an intensive discussion about the ongoing efforts of the tribes to resolve the issues with the cardrooms across California.

At the conference on Tuesday, Tuari Bigknife, Viejas Tribe’s attorney general, spoke about the tribes’ exclusivity over gambling, highlighting a bill that seeks to ensure this “constitutionally guaranteed exclusivity.” Moreover, he spoke about the growing impact of cardrooms on tribal casinos, pointing to a period during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the time, across California, tribes kept the doors of their casinos open, while cardrooms were forced to shut. This was when the tribes compared financial statements and reports, uncovering that during this period, their income increased exponentially. According to Bigknife, the operations of cardrooms lead to annual losses for tribal operators “in excess of $100 million.”

Tribes Seek to Resolve the Issue in Court

One effort that seeks to resolve the ongoing matter between cardrooms and tribal operators is Senate Bill 549 (SB 549). This proposal calls to enable tribal operators to resolve their issues with cardrooms in court. Bigknife said that under the current regulations, Indian tribes are not permitted to go to court. “SB 549 authorizes a single lawsuit in superior court in Sacramento (that every stakeholder could join),” he explained.

We just need to be able to get into court and make our case.

Marc Macarro, chairman of the Pechanga Band of Indians

The initiative received support from Marc Macarro, the Pechanga Band of Indians’ chairman and the National Congress of Native Americans’ president. He highlighted the need for Indian tribes to settle the case with the state’s cardrooms in court. While Macarro acknowledged that going to court doesn’t guarantee a win, he said that this way the tribes would have at least had a chance to prove their position.


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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