Over a hundred workers from cardrooms in the Los Angeles area gathered in Fullerton on December 6 to protest a proposed legislation that they fear could result in job losses and reduced income. The rally took place in front of the office of Democratic state Sen. Josh Newman, who introduced Senate Bill 549, also known as the Tribal Declaratory Relief Act of 2023. This bill has reignited a long-standing conflict between cardroom operators and tribal casinos.
The protesters held signs with slogans like “Say no to 549” and “549 is a bad bet” to express their opposition to the legislation. Despite the closure of Newman’s office during the rally, the event was described as orderly. Currently, federally recognized tribes are allowed to offer lottery games, slot machines, and “banked” card games such as traditional blackjack, where the casino acts as the bank. On the other hand, cardrooms can only offer “player-dealer” games like poker and baccarat.
Senate Bill 549 would allow tribal casinos to take legal action against cardroom operators that they allege are running “banking card games” in violation of tribal gaming exclusivity and California law. The president of the California Cardroom Alliance argued that the bill is an attempt by wealthy tribes to shut down cardrooms and could result in job losses and business closures.
Local officials also expressed concern about the potential impact of the legislation on their communities. Shavon Moore-Cage, executive assistant to the city manager of Hawaiian Gardens, stated that the tax revenue from their cardroom funds public services and that the city would suffer greatly if the cardroom were forced to close.
While the legislation is currently before the Assembly Rules Committee and pending approval, Newman stated that the issue will ultimately be resolved through legal channels. He emphasized that the courts will be responsible for deciding the matter and that the legislature will not make the final decision. If the bill is approved, it is expected to go into effect in early 2024.