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CA. Assembly Committee Approves Bill That Would Kill Cardroom Jobs

EMPLOYEES of The Garden’s Casino in Hawaiian Gardens traveled to Assemblyman Tri Ta’s Orange County office last week to chat with the Ta concerning Senate Bill 549, a bill that would allow California tribes to sue cardrooms claiming the cardrooms are violating the tribes’ rights. The bill would cost thousands in jobs at the cardrooms. Ta was not at his office, he voted to move the bill forward in the Senate this week.

July 5, 2024

By Brian Hews

In 2022, California voters rejected Proposition 26, a ballot measure that would have allowed tribal casinos to run roulette and dice games while dictating the kinds of games the California cardrooms could offer.

The proposition would have likely driven out of business the state’s cardrooms, such as The Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens and The Commerce Casino in Commerce.

California cardrooms provide a significant source of tax revenue for city and county general funds and vital tax revenue to the cities for education, public safety, public health, infrastructure, and homelessness.

If Prop. 26 had passed, some cities would been forced to implement draconian cuts or get pushed into bankruptcy. In Hawaiian Gardens, the Gardens Casino provides 78% of the city’s revenue; in Commerce, the Commerce Casino provides 50% of the city’s revenue.

But California voters are smart and rejected Prop. 26 by a two-to-one margin, but evidently, State Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) was not one of the smart ones.

Despite the severe economic consequences, Newman last year pushed a bill similar to Prop. 26, Senate Bill 549, the Tribal Declaratory Relief Act of 2023, a hurried gut-and-amend bill that would give sovereign tribal governments a new Private Attorney General Act (PAGA).

SB 549 began as a measure dealing with education, but in June 2023, Newman substituted verbiage – lifted almost word for word from Prop. 26.

California cardrooms legally operate games approved by the Attorney General. Many variations of traditional poker and California games are played. Each game is different, and each one is approved separately.

SB 549 would allow any or all these games to be challenged in court; every game would have to be adjudicated, meaning the judge would have to analyze the rules and implementation of the game, which could take years and clog the courts.

In a time of record deficits, SB 549 would cut $500 million in tax revenue statewide; California and local communities would lose $5.6 billion in economic output generated by cardrooms and 32,000 good-paying jobs that generate $1.6 billion in wages annually.


According to the California Cardroom Alliance, the economic harm will happen quickly before any litigation is resolved. Filing the lawsuits under PAGA will immediately disrupt banking services while litigation is pending, contending that the games are not legal. This will impact cities, 30,000 cardroom employees, and the large and small business owners who sell goods or provide services to cardrooms.

Despite Prop. 26 losing by a 2-1 margin, and all the bad economic and job data, the California Assembly Governmental Organization Committee, Chaired by Asm. Blanca Rubio (D-West Covina), voted 15-1 on July 3 to move Senate Bill 549, out of committee and to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, dealing a blow to privately owned cardrooms in California.

Have a good fourth of July cardroom employees, vendors, and owners.

Chair Rubio and Vice-Chair Tom Lackey (D-Palmdale) took the low road, registering “Not Voting” on the roster, as did Mike Gipson (D-Gardena), who has private cardrooms in his district. 

The bill now moves to the Assembly. Appropriations Committee.

Keith Sharp, President of the California Cardroom Alliance told Los Cerritos Community News, “We are disappointed with the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee’s decision to prioritize the interests of wealthy tribal casinos over the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Californians who depend on cardroom jobs and the cities that rely on this revenue. SB 549 poses serious risks to these communities by allowing tribal nations to sue law-abiding California businesses without granting these businesses similar legal protections. This imbalance threatens the local economies supported by cardrooms. Despite facing a $9 billion industry, we remain committed to advocating for our jobs and communities.”