California Lawmaker Proposes 20-Year Cardroom Moratorium with Expansion Opportunities for Smaller Establishments

On March 8, the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee approved a proposal to establish a new cardroom moratorium for the next 20 years in California. The measure, known as AB341, was introduced by State Assemblymember James Ramos, the first California Indian ever elected to the state legislature, on January 30.

If passed, AB341 would create a new moratorium that would expire on January 1, 2043, superseding the existing moratorium established by the Gambling Control Act of 1997. This earlier act had prohibited new cardrooms from opening and existing ones from expanding for 25 years. However, it had set a 10-year moratorium on cardroom expansions, which the state legislature had periodically extended, with the exception of last year.

AB341 would maintain the moratorium on new cardrooms and large-scale expansions while providing opportunities for smaller cardrooms to increase their revenue.

Existing cardrooms with 20 or fewer tables would be permitted to expand the number of tables by up to two within the first year after the ordinance takes effect and up to two additional tables every four years thereafter. However, under this new bill, establishments would only be allowed to add up to 10 more tables than they had starting on January 1, 2023.

Although cardrooms and tribes have often been at odds over gaming-related issues, both have expressed support for AB341. In fact, five California tribes, namely the Cahuilla Band of Mission Indians, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, and Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians, have issued a joint statement endorsing the proposed bill.

According to the joint statement, the proposed legislation by Assemblymember Ramos offers a balanced approach by allowing for a measured expansion of California’s cardroom industry. The statement further states that the tribes are eager to work with the Legislature, the cardroom industry, and the tribal community to achieve a balance that aligns with California voters’ support of tribal gaming.

The California Cardroom Alliance, which represents the state’s cardrooms, has also expressed its support for AB341. The alliance stated that the proposed legislation addresses the need for expanding tables at California cardrooms while maintaining the cardroom license moratorium that has been in place for decades.

Assemblymember Ramos’ office released a statement regarding AB341, stating that he had brought the tribes and cardrooms together to work out a consensus, which has resulted in AB341.

The statement further added that the bill has received broad support from both the cardrooms and tribes and provides a path forward for allowing measured cardroom growth without overexpansion to ensure the vitality of the gaming industry in the coming years.

To become law, AB341 has to wait 30 days from the date of introduction before the Assembly Rules Committee assigns it to the appropriate committee for voting and moves it through the state legislature for final approval.

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