Who Will Win Between Tribal Casinos and Card Rooms?

By: 
Gerrie Schipske

Steps away from the eastern border of Long Beach sits a fairly new building at the corner of Pioneer Avenue and Carson Street. The sign says “The Gardens Casino” but in reality, it is a card club – one of the 76 in California that the Tribal casinos would like to shut down.

It took until 1999 for native tribes in California to fully assert their independence from state law which made most forms of gambling illegal. Until then, only poker and horse racing were allowed in California. When the courts and the voters gave tribes the green light to operate casinos, the tribes took full advantage and today bring in an estimated $10 billion a year.

So why did several of the tribes recently file complaints with the State against the card rooms that have been operating long before there were tribal casinos? Why have a coalition of the political powerful California tribes threatened a lawsuit against card clubs?

It goes back to early California when games that used “banking” were listed in the State constitution as illegal. Banking is the process of a casino – the “house” – having a stake in the outcome of a bet. If the player wins, the house pays. If the player loses, the house wins. In poker, the house has no stake in the outcome and so the game and card rooms which offer it have been considered legal. The card room makes its money (literally millions) by taking a “rake” from the players’ pot. The rake usually is $1 to $4.

However, for the past 13 years or so, card clubs have not only renamed themselves as “casinos” but are offering numerous “banking” games referred to in the gambling trade as “California or Asian games.” They include, blackjack, pai gow, baccarat, three card poker and Texas ultimate poker. To get around restrictions of the card room acting as the bank, the card room contracts with “third party players” who provide the bank.

The Tribal representatives argue that this “go around” is illegal because it allows card rooms to operate as casinos and offer everything short of slot machines and craps.

California is home to 76 active card rooms. The state placed a moratorium on new ones opening until 2020. Not only does a card room have to get licensed by the state, but local government must approve their operation and the matter can be put to a vote of the residents.

There is no regulation concerning what is a “casino,” so anyone can use the term. Most gamblers don’t know or understand the differences, except the absence of slot machines, craps and smoking. All card clubs are smoke free.

What will it take to decide who wins? Cards clubs are counting on a dysfunctional gaming regulatory system that is divided between the governor and the attorney general to keep the status quo and let card clubs continue offering these games. On the other hand, tribal casinos pay millions to the State of California from a percentage of earnings to a fee on each slot machine operated. Card clubs can hardly compete.

Tribal casinos also contribute millions to state political campaigns and are waiting for the next attorney general and governor to move in their favor. The fight against card clubs will escalate with the Supreme Court ruling that States can authorize sports betting, as Tribal casinos attempt to stake out that territory as their own.

Meanwhile, the parking lots at The Gardens are filled every day.

gerrie@beachcomber.news

Category:

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Beachcomber

Copyright 2018 Beeler & Associates.

All rights reserved. Contents may not be reproduced or transmitted – by any means – without publisher's written permission.