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Sen. Josh Newman’s SB 549 Would Kill Cardroom Jobs

Cardroom employees in Downtown Fullerton in front of Josh Newman’s office in December 2023 protesting Newman’s SB 549.

By Shavon Moore-Cage • February 17, 2024

A job-killing bill is lurking in the California Assembly, threatening the livelihoods of hard-working people in communities across California and Los Angeles County. Senator Josh Newman’s Senate Bill 549 would put tens of thousands of cardroom and local government jobs at risk and deprive many cities of their main source of tax revenue.

SB 549 would allow a handful of wealthy tribal casinos to sue cardrooms for offering certain games that have been legal and regulated for decades.

The supporters of this bill aim to bury the cardrooms under expensive and endless lawsuits. This will not only impact their operations and revenues but also the jobs and city revenues that depend on them. It is not right to give the wealthy gaming tribes the power to sue their competitors, while no one has the right to sue a tribal casino.

The cities of Commerce, Compton, Inglewood, Bell Gardens, Oceanside, and Hawaiian Gardens are not just dots on the map. They are vibrant communities home to some of the largest cardrooms in the state.

The cardrooms are more than just gaming establishments. They are significant contributors to the city’s tax revenue, funding public services essential to the community.

These cardrooms provide over 30,000 jobs across the state, with more than 13,000 of them located in Los Angeles County alone, while generating over $2 billion in total economic impact and $500 million in taxes statewide.

I speak from personal experience when I say that the closure of cardrooms directly impacts city workers. I was laid off when our local cardroom had to close during the pandemic. I have seen the hardship it brings.

In recent months, two large protests and rallies have taken place against SB 549, where employees, cardrooms, city officials, and community leaders, including many from Los Angeles County, came together to demonstrate how this bill would negatively impact them.

The first rally was held in December in front of Senator Newman’s Fullerton offices, which your paper, Los Cerritos Community News exclusively covered.

The second one was held in January in Sacramento outside the State Capitol. Hundreds of people participated in these rallies, showing their passion and determination to fight for their jobs and communities.

Senate Bill 549 is not a solution; it is a problem. It is an attempt by a few wealthy gaming tribes to eliminate their competition – the California cardrooms. These cardrooms are already highly regulated by the California Gambling Control Commission, the State Attorney General, and local governments.

They operate under strict monitoring and enforcement of gambling laws and other legal violations, and moreover, the California Department of Justice has approved the games they offer for over two decades.

This bill is a last-minute “gut-and-amend,” a tactic that these few wealthy tribes have tried repeatedly. Voters have rejected their past attempts to get the power to sue cardrooms, but rather take no for an answer, they now are asking the legislature to disregard the will of the voters.

Senate Bill 549 is not right, and it is unfair. We urge you to see through this latest attempt to put their competition out of business, which will harm workers and our cities.

This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Sentinel, it was edited for length and grammar.