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Bill that would allow tribes to sue California cardrooms under fire

| By iGB Freelance
More than 100 protestors, including local mayors and cardroom employees, gathered in Sacramento on Tuesday to protest Senate Bill SB 549, known as the Tribal Nations Access to Justice Act.
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The bill would allow California tribes to sue cardrooms over the claim that the privately owned cardrooms are violating the tribes’ rights. Indian Country have exclusivity for Las Vegas-style casino gambling in California. The bill is in the general assembly.

The protesters held banners that read “No on SB 549!” and “Bad Bet For California”. In addition, the crowd broke into chants of “We’re not fine with 549”. Those gathered listened to speeches from local politicians and city representatives about how the bill could harm California cardrooms.

The bill moved forward Tuesday (3 July) when Assembly Governmental Organization Committee voted to approve it.

Marcel Rodarte, executive director for the California Contracts Cities Association, said at the protest: “SB 549 is a bill that will negatively harm many of our cities who have cardrooms located in their communities. Cardrooms are an integral part of our cities as they provide jobs.”

The dispute essentially concerns the format of certain games. At issue is whether the cardrooms are circumventing the prohibition against their acting as the “house” or the “bank”.

California cardrooms say jobs would be lost

The California Gambling Association has estimated that the passage of SB 549 could cost around 32,000 jobs. California cardrooms may be forced to shut down and downsize thanks to the legislation. Cardrooms have been lobbying strongly against the bill.

The Hawaiian Gardens Casino in Los Angeles County spent $9.1 million on lobbying in 2023. That is the second highest sum of any lobbying group that reported to state regulators. International oil company Chevron Corporation spent the most.

“Our two cardrooms have been the backbone of our community as they will provide vital tax services that our city uses to fund vital public services which allow us to provide a better quality of life for our residents and communities,” said the mayor of the City of Gardena, Tasha Cerda, during the protest. “Our cardrooms employ over 1,200 residents and individuals from surrounding communities. That’s over $47 million in wages a year.”

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