New California Cardroom Moratorium Bill Aims For Measured Expansion

A moratorium was introduced in California preventing new cardrooms from opening as well as existing ones from expanding in 1995.

The Gambling Control Act was passed by California senators three years later, extending the moratorium until Jan. 1, 2015. It was later extended to Jan. 1, 2023. When the Seante committee met last year to extend it again, a tie vote ended the moratorium.

In an effort to reverse that vote and again place a moratorium on new cardrooms in California, along with placing limits on cardroom expansions, California State Assembly member James Ramos introduced AB 341 on Jan. 30. The measure would create a moratorium until 2043.

Sponsor says AB 341 will aid cardrooms in California

All legal poker games at public places in California must take place at cardrooms or at casino poker rooms. Online poker in California is still illegal, though social poker sites are available to Californians that don’t play for real money.

Ramos says his AB 341 is meant to protect the cardrooms in the state.

“It provides a path forward for allowing measured cardroom growth without overexpansion to ensure the vitality of the gaming industry in the coming years.”

The proposed bill would prevent new cardrooms from opening as well as large-scale expansions on existing ones. Smaller cardrooms, however, would still be able to gradually expand. 

Any cardroom in California with 20 tables or less would have the ability to add up to two more tables within the first year. Up to two additional tables could be added every four years after that, with a cap set at 10 tables.

The Assembly Governmental Organization Committee advanced the measure on March 8. If passed after two more readings on the Assembly floor, the bill will go to the Senate to begin the process in that house.

How is a cardroom moratorium beneficial?

Moratoriums are beneficial and necessary in a lot of scenarios. In the case of cardrooms, it prevents saturation and overexpansion.

The gaming industry is large, but many establishments need a constant flow of new and loyal customers to keep the lights on. If there are too many cardrooms, many of the smaller rooms would be forced to shut down.

In the case of poker, players battle against each other instead of the house, so the more people in a smaller number of rooms the better.

This new moratorium will provide a happy medium where smaller rooms will still be able to grow.

Cardrooms and tribes support each other

Given the stranglehold that tribes have over gaming in California, they have typically been at odds with cardrooms. California casino operators believe that cardrooms provide loopholes around the law surrounding gambling in California.

Interestingly, some tribes have shown support for AB 341.

  • Cahuilla Band of Mission Indians
  • Morongo Band of Mission Indians
  • San Manuel Band of Mission Indians
  • Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians
  • Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians

The tribes issued a joint statement in support of Ramos and his bill.

“We look forward to working with the Legislature, the cardroom industry and the tribal community on finding a balance that is consistent with California voters’ support of tribal gaming.”

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