California cardrooms and Indian tribes are known for disagreeing on most things. But, they backed a cardroom moratorium bill this week that Assemblyman James Ramos introduced. He is the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians' former chairman.
The Senate Governmental Organization (GO) Committee passed the legislation on Tuesday after voting 11-0. The Senate Appropriations Committee will consider AB 341 in the future.
Ramos informed the committee that it wasn't easy winning the Indian tribes and cardrooms' support. But, they managed to assemble people in one room for more than a year deliberating various issues despite not holding such meetings for more than three decades.
His bill will increase small cardroom's table games and restrict the launch of new card clubs. The Assembly passed it in March after it voted 68-1.
Cardrooms and Indian Tribes' Unprecedented Unity
The state's Native tribes and cardrooms want its gaming industry to have fair competition. So, the bill's passage in the Senate GO wasn't an easy feat as the rooms and tribes rarely agree on issues.
Chairman Senator Bill Dodd opposed legislation that the Assembly passed in 2022 which would have prolonged the moratorium by a year since he wanted more compromise. This prompted Ramos and his group to find a compromise with two points; prohibiting the creation of other cardrooms for two decades and giving cardrooms with less than 21 tables to add 10 more tables in the next 16 years.
Three cardrooms and six Native tribes were AB 341's co-sponsors. The California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) backs the legislation. It is a representative of 47 out of the state's 71 gaming tribes.
Charles Martin, Morongo Band of Mission Indians' Chairman stated that they believe AB 341 is an amazing compromise that allows the cardroom industry's regulated growth as Californians support tribal gaming operators.
Joy Harn, Commerce Casino's General Counsel, said that restoring the moratorium will enhance economic security and existing cardroom's viability in cities that support them.
Harn stated that AB 341 has successfully united California cardrooms and tribes, something that hasn't happened in a long time. They oppose uncontrolled gambling expansion as small cardrooms' revenue is essential for their host cities.
Some Native Tribes Are Opposing the Bill
Cody Martinez, the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation tribal chairman, stated that the legislation's workgroup language permitted cardrooms with less than 20 gaming tables to expand. But, the filed bill had a different language which specified that a cardroom should have 20 or fewer tables to expand.
Martinez argued that the slight change will cause the expansion of many cardrooms in the tribe's jurisdiction. Dustin Murray, the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians' tribal administrator, claimed that many small cardrooms surround their Northern California tribal casino.
Jeff Butler, Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation's general counsel, stated that they object to two San Jose cardrooms' carveout as they currently have 49 tables each.