Tribal Tensions in California Increase As James Ramos Introduces a Cardroom Moratorium Bill

James Ramos, a California assembly member, presented AB341, a new cardroom moratorium bill on Monday. It will restore the cardroom expansion restriction that lasted for 25 years and expired on January 1, 2023. Still, tribal tensions are high in the state since the moratorium expired.

Senator Bill Dodd prevented the moratorium from being extended by a year in 2022. This prompted the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation to send mailers several days ago claiming that Dodd has unclear interests in the cardroom.

The Cardroom Expansion's Compromise

The Gambling Control Act of 1997 set the state's cardroom industry's regulatory framework and a decade moratorium for its expansion. Still, it restricted the addition of more tables in cardrooms and the launch of new cardrooms.

The legislature has prolonged the cardroom moratorium several times since then. But, Native tribes oppose cardrooms offer for illegal table games. They state that all local cardrooms have illegal operations due to providing house-banked games like blackjack through third-party bankers.

Huge cardrooms backed the moratorium as it restricted the establishment of new poker sites. Even so, cities with many small cardrooms have consistently complained about how the legislation restricts them from expanding gaming operations. A likely solution would be allowing cardrooms that have less than 21 tables to add two more tables in the first year and two more in four years intervals until they add 10 more tables in total.

Will the Free-for-All Expansion Period Last?

The Bureau of Gambling Control started receiving applications for cardroom expansions and new cardrooms on January 1. The California Gambling Control Commission will offer gaming licenses if it approves them. Even so, each application requires support from local communities.

Reports claim that some lobbyists and attorneys are urging cities to accept new cardrooms. AB 341 will prevent cardroom expansions by prolonging the moratorium up to January 1, 2043, and rejecting each new gaming license application made this year. Voters passed the expansion of two San Jose cardrooms in 2020 that will add 30 tables.

How Did the Moratorium Battle Begin?

The Senate Governmental Organization Committee addresses gaming issues and Dodd chairs it. It decided to extend the cardroom moratorium by three years in 2018 hoping that involved parties would compromise to let small cardrooms increase their table games. Still, the committee extended the moratorium by one year just before the agreed period lapsed.

Dodd took the bull by the horns in 2022 and spearheaded a 3-3 stalemate to end the expansion bill after the parties failed to reach a compromise. By then, the Assembly had passed the bill and had high chances of passing in the Senate if the committee supported it.

The Senator told the committee that it had to "kill" the bill to solve gaming issues in California that had lasted for over two decades. He promised to partner with concerned parties to get a compromise this year. But, Ramos from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians started the new moratorium bill.

Yocha Dehe runs Cache Creek Casino Resort in the Senator's district including Santa Rosa and Sacramento. It termed his deal as a bad move since cardrooms gave him $94,000 in contributions.


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