Newest Target for Prop 26 Attack Ads? California Card Rooms

In a second salvo of attack ads, the Prop 26 campaign has released advertisements that paint California card room casino operators in an unflattering light.

Previously, Yes on 26/No on 27 has concentrated its venom on large out-of-state sports betting companies that support Prop 27.

This latest tactic signals an untrammeled effort to target groups that want Prop 26 to fail at the Nov. 8 election.

Prop 26 would legalize California sports betting in-person only and help keep the operation of gaming in California under the control of tribal governments. Prop 27 would legalize online sportsbooks and allow corporations to operate in the market for a license fee and tax on revenue from sports betting.

Supporters of Prop 26 have cited tribal sovereignty as a primary issue for their opposition to Prop 27. But now they are going after card rooms, who have solely funded the $42.5 million No on 26 campaign.

Not only would Prop 26 further eat into card rooms’ in-person gambling customer base, but a provision in Prop 26 would also make it easier for tribes to directly sue card rooms for how they offer house-banked games like blackjack.

The war between tribal casinos and card rooms has gotten rather personal.

According to Prop 26 proponents, the card room operators “have a well-documented history of flouting the law and have been fined millions of dollars for violating anti-money laundering laws, misleading regulators and illegal gambling.”

Yes, a few card room operators have been cited with violations in the past, but the accusations and effort Yes on 26 is taking looks a lot like mud-slinging.

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What Are California Card Room Casinos?

A card room is an establishment that provides poker, including Texas hold’em, for players to compete live in-person with others. Most card rooms offer other popular table card games such as blackjack and baccarat via third-party vendors.

Unlike traditional casino slot games or online poker, card rooms facilitate customers to wager and compete directly against the other players, as opposed to playing against “the house.”

There are 84 licensed card room casinos or locations in California currently, although just 59 are active. They are regulated by the California Gambling Control Commission. Some of the card rooms have a single table, but the largest have as many as 200-300 tables and hold popular tournaments.

How have card rooms become embroiled in what is basically a battle between some California tribal gaming operators and corporate sports betting companies like DraftKings and FanDuel?

It comes down to specific language in Prop 26. The ballot initiative would allow lawsuits against card rooms if the tribe believes the card room is violating any law. Currently, the tribe can only sue the state about this. Prop 26 would allow tribes to directly sue the card rooms.

Why Do Tribes Want to Sue Card Rooms?

Many tribal casinos are irked that card rooms can compete against them for blackjack customers. Understandably, the people who operate card rooms in California, groups like California Commerce Club, Hawaiian Gardens Casino, and Knighted Ventures, are fearful of Prop 26 passing.

As a result, the card rooms and card players who frequent them are vehemently opposed to Prop 26.

That opposition has seemingly rankled the Yes on 26/No on 27 group so much that they’ve taken to pumping ad dollars into a campaign against California card rooms, even though they are legal.

The ad, which can be seen on YouTube, claims card room operators in the state have been “fined tens of millions for money laundering, racketeering” and “drug trafficking.”

Prop 26 backers have launched a website,

That website lists these organizations as being major funders of the campaign that criticizes California card room casinos: Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, Pechanga Band of Indians, and Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation.

All three of those tribes’ casinos — Graton Resort & Casino (20-table poker room), Pechanga Resort Casino (42-table poker room), Cache Creek Casino Resort (14-table poker room) — have popular poker rooms that compete directly with card rooms.

CALIFORNIA CARD ROOMS: Why Are Prop 26 and California Card Rooms at War? Blackjack

Experts Predict Both Prop 26 and Prop 27 Will Fail at Ballot Box

As we reported here at California Casinos earlier this week, a poll from the University of California at Berkeley indicates that both Prop 26 and Prop 27 will fail on Nov. 8. The poll revealed that based on more than 6,000 respondents, only 31% of likely California voters support Prop 26, and even fewer (27%) support Prop 27.

Last month, key spokespeople for both sides participated in a debate on both ballot initiatives. At that time, Yes on 26 spokesperson Kathy Fairbanks suggested compromise between tribes and sportsbooks could be inevitable if both measures fail in November.

One might wonder why both sides are still trading punches when it seems neither will emerge victorious. But, sometimes misery loves company. Unfortunately, the most miserable might be sports fans in California who simply want legal, regulated, safe sports betting. When that becomes a reality is anyone’s guess.

Probably 2025, at the earliest.

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About the Author
Newest Target for Prop 26 Attack Ads? California Card Rooms 1

Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes is a writer and contributor for California Casinos with plenty of experience under his belt. Dan has written three books about sports and previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. Currently, Dan is residing in Michigan with his family.