California Tribes Ready to Sue State Over Banked Games Issue

Summary: Tribal gaming operators of California are preparing to sue the state as regulators are preparing to stop banked card games from operating within card clubs.

House-banked card games like Pai Gow Poker and Blackjack, are games that have been offered by card rooms in the state despite tribes feeling the games are in violation of their compact exclusivity. Card clubs in the state have been able to work around the existing laws to offer such games which have only caused the tribes to become furious at the gaming operators.

New Recent Developments

California CasinosThe house-banked games have been a hot point of contention in California for years. The tribes feel that the card rooms offering such games are in violation of their tribal exclusivity based on their Class III gaming compacts with the state.

Back in September, a memo was sent by the director of the Bureau of Gambling Control, Ms. Stephanie Shimazu. The memo has since been released to the public, showing that the bureau is promising to rescind game rule approvals for games that are similar to blackjack and prohibited by laws of the state. Card rooms are to be notified by the bureau and enforcement deferred for a specific time frame to allow the card rooms to make the necessary changes.

Card rooms feel the games are perfectly legal as they use shills from third-party vendors to take the place of the position held by the dealer-player. The tribes disagree and state that a banked game is a banked game no matter who the dealer is.

The California Nations Indian Gaming Association feels that the memo is a tactic for stalling by the bureau and they plan on moving ahead by filing a lawsuit with the state. The organization is ready to fight and have even decided to bring sports betting in the mix.

The group has decided to show opposition towards sports betting regulation while banked games are being offered at card rooms. This will keep the state from getting started with sports betting, something that could be quite lucrative for the state, not to mention the possibility for online casinos in California which would add even more incremental revenue.

The tribal gaming operators will be opposed to a ballot measure that proposes to bypass the legislative process by allowing voters a say in whether or not sports betting should be legalized in the state.

Relying on Card Club Revenues

In the meantime, the areas where card rooms are in operation are relying heavily on revenues generated by the clubs. The clubs are taking the threat by the bureau seriously and are wondering how such a request can be made without consultation with the public or the industry at large.

The drastic change requested by the bureau would require the card rooms to make significant adjustments to their operations, changes that could have a negative effect on revenues. According to some operators, the crackdown against banked games could be crippling.

California has long had issues with seeing changes to their gambling landscape due to conflicts between card rooms, tribal interests, lawmakers, etc. Over the years, the state has failed to pass any legislation involving online poker gaming as the card rooms, horse tracks and tribal operators could not agree on how the industry should operate.

It will be interesting to see how this latest clash progresses. If the tribes will file their suit and the state make the changes quickly to see card rooms stop offering banked games or if other changes will be made to the gaming industry. Only time will tell what will happen regarding what can legally be provided by the card rooms in the state and if the tribes will be in agreement.