California Indian Tribes Continue Opposing Cardroom Games

California Native Indian tribes are still opposing cardrooms and want the legislature to urge the courts to declare the legality of cardrooms’ house-banked games. But, cardroom operators believe that the Native tribes want the state to shut down casino games that it regulates.

The tribes have filed several cases in recent years that courts dismissed. But Senator Josh Newman drafted a bill that wants courts to end the tribes’ dispute with cardrooms.

The California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) Executive Director, James Siva informed some reporters that they hope the bill will solve the cardroom games disagreement once it passes. Even so, the Assembly Judiciary Committee heard SB549 on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.

Details About California’s Cardroom Games

The state’s constitution bans Nevada-style gaming properties, thus prohibiting local cardrooms from providing banked games. Even so, blackjack is a house-banked game, and cardrooms offer a blackjack variant in which a player acts as the bank and other players wager against them. Cardrooms generate revenue from collection fees that a player pays to take part in every hand.

Some companies formed third-party proposition players (TPPP) for California cardrooms who seat near the dealer and serve as each table’s bank. The cardrooms and these companies share the money that such players make.

California registered TPPP vendors. It mandated the Bureau of Gambling Control and the California Gambling Control Commission to regulate the games.

Robert Lytle, the Bureau of Gambling Control’s head in 2007 wrote a controversial letter at that time stating that a deal can contravene Penal Code 330.11 and be inconsistent. He added that cardrooms can offer them at the table to interested players.

Indian Tribes’ Efforts to Shut Down the Games

Proposition 1A (2000) changed California’s constitution and offered Indian tribes an exception which allows them to provide banked and percentage games, and slot machines on tribal casinos once they make gaming agreements with the state.

They have dominated the state’s gaming markets as the only banked games providers for over two decades and want to prevent cardrooms from offering house-banked games like baccarat and blackjack. The Native tribes have made a few lawsuits about these games.

The Court of Appeals and a trial court decided in 2021 that California tribes lacked standing since they cannot be sued or sue directly in California courts.

What the New Gaming Bill Entails

SB 549 is also called the Tribal Declaratory Relief Act of 2023 intent and purpose is to authorize relief action before state courts to determine the legality of particular games that California card clubs operate. Also, the courts need to state whether the games infringe on the Native tribes’ gaming rights.

The proposed constitutional amendment requires the tribes to file a lawsuit in the Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento before April 1, in case the legislature passes it this year. Also, it consolidates several actions that ought to be filed as a lawsuit.

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