California sports betting hearing; cardrooms protest rule changes


california-cardrooms-protest-gambling-rule-changesCalifornia’s gambling market is poised for a potentially major shakeup in 2020 over proposed changes to sports betting and cardroom regulations.

On Wednesday, California legislators announced a joint Senate-Assembly information hearing on January 8 to discuss competing proposals to legalize sports betting in the state. State Sen. Bill Dodd told local media that it was legislators’ job to “stand up for the public interest and ensure California adopts the best possible model.”

Dodd and Assembly member Adam Gray have each introduced bills that would amend the state constitution to permit legal wagering, including online and mobile bets. There’s also a strictly land-based (for the time being, at least) betting ballot initiative backed by the state’s tribal gaming operators that would prohibit involvement by the state’s cardroom operators.

Speaking of, Wednesday saw the state’s Bureau of Gambling Control (BGC) hold a public workshop to discuss proposed changes to the rules involving cardrooms’ so-called ‘player-banked’ games. Cardroom operators fiercely oppose the proposed changes, which were floated earlier this month, based on the their belief that the alterations would make their operations unprofitable.

The state’s tribal gaming compacts are supposed to grant tribal casinos exclusivity over house-banked card games – blackjack and baccarat, rather than poker – but cardrooms have found a workaround in which a designated ‘third-party proposition player’ acts as the house/bank.

The proposed changes would require all players seated at a table to take a turn serving as the bank. Players who refuse the role would have to leave the table, and all play at the table would have to stop if no other player proved willing to assume the banker’s responsibilities.

Wednesday’s public forum was met with a protest organized by the California Gaming Association (CGA), which represents cardroom operators. CGA president Kyle Kirkland told local media that games like blackjack account for the majority of cardroom revenue and thus most operators would have to shut down if the rules were adopted as proposed.

Kirkland warned that the CGA would file a legal challenge of the rules if they’re adopted in their current form. A BGC spokesperson told local media that the regulator “has not yet initiated the formal rule-making process for this topic.”

The cardrooms may have strong support in their local communities but their operations are proving increasingly embarrassing for state authorities due to the cardrooms’ apparent unwillingness to adhere to even basic regulatory standards.