Will California Sports Betting Put Cardrooms Out Of Business?

While California is home to dozens of Class II and Class III tribal casinos, the state also boasts upwards of 80 active cardrooms. And those cardrooms are big business. They’re so big, in fact, that they could delay California’s most recent and highest-profile attempt at legalizing domestic sports betting.

The initiative, informally called the Tribal Sports Wagering Act, would allow local sports betting at California Indian casinos and four CA horse racetracks:

  • Santa Anita Park (Arcadia)
  • Los Alamitos Race Course (Cypress)
  • Del Mar Thoroughbred Club (Del Mar)
  • Golden Gate Fields (Berkeley)

The proposed legislation is backed by the Pechanga Resort Casino, a host of ancillary businesses, and a mishmash of other public interests, and it will be put before California voters in the Midterm elections this November.

As always, though, the devil’s in the details.

Here, in addition to granting California tribes and tracks access to legal CA sports betting, the law – if passed in its current form – could present considerable problems for CA’s cardroom industry.

Per The Mercury News:

“Opponents say the measure would give tribal casinos a near-monopoly on all gaming in California – adding exclusivity over roulette, craps and sports wagering to their current monopoly on slot machines.

They contend it also would also expand the Private Attorneys General Act, allowing tribal casinos to hire private trial lawyers, effectively replacing the role of the state’s attorney general to sue cardrooms and potentially forcing them out of business over costly litigation.”

According to the proposal’s naysayers, voter approval and passage of the legislation – as it now stands – could eliminate 32,000 jobs and erase some $1.6 billion in yearly wages from the California gaming sector. Further, the Los Angeles area could lose out on over $71 million in tax revenue currently earmarked for public health, homelessness, and senior care.

Naturally, proponents decry the above as unfounded and unwarranted. Kelly Fairbanks of the Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming, explains:

“Our measure simply ensures existing laws preventing illegal gambling are being followed. Cardrooms following the law have nothing to worry about — nor do their employees.”

Of course, that kind of “reassurance” isn’t resonating. Because the new law would give private trial attorneys the ability to bring suits against cardroom operators – whether those suits are founded or not – it effectively opens up a whole new line of attack against these smaller CA gambling businesses.

Currently, the state has to weigh all the evidence before bringing suit against cardroom operators for any reason, and there are political ramifications for filing false charges or pursuing trumped-up charges.

Privatizing the above takes this important safety net away and gives wealthy casino operators a massive advantage: Even if a casino’s claims have no merit, said casino can draw out any case long enough to completely bankrupt their smaller competitors.

And according to the cardrooms, there’s no reason to believe their powerful rivals wouldn’t do exactly that. Honestly, we have to agree.

That being said, we don’t tend to find CA cardrooms to be all that compelling, either. We much prefer the convenience of playing real-money online casino games – aka iGaming – at California-friendly Internet casinos that operate outside US borders.

These venues are safe and lawful, and most of them take California residents at just 18 and up. Plus, you can often access all your favorite gambling markets under one roof. That is, you won’t have to go to one site for casino games, another site for online poker, and yet another venue for online sports betting.

And, best of all, you won’t have to wait on any legislation – controversial or not – to pass before you can play.