California Gov. Gavin Newsom reinstated a 20-year ban on new cardrooms, signing the bipartisan legislation on May 22 to protect the state’s growing gaming industry from smaller gambling operations.
Sponsored by Assemblyman James Ramos (D-San Bernardino), Assembly Bill 341 prohibits the state from issuing new licenses but allows licensed cardrooms to operate fewer than 20 gaming tables and add up to 10 new tables over the next 20 years.
“I am happy to have brought the tribes and cardrooms together in a historic consensus that has resulted in the bipartisan AB 341 becoming law,” said Ramos, the state Assembly’s first California Native American and member of the San Manuel Indian Reservation. “I deeply appreciate Gov. Newsom’s support for AB 341, which will help ensure the vitality of the gaming industry by allowing for measured cardroom growth without overexpansion over the next 20 years.”
The moratorium—which was originally created by the 1997 Gambling Control Act and expired on Jan. 1—will be effective until Jan. 1, 2043.
The law authorizes a city or county to amend its local laws to increase the number of tables allowed to operate in a gambling establishment by up to two additional tables in the first year and two more every four years after that, not to exceed 10 new tables in 20 years and no more than 20 tables in total.
The state Legislature considered the same legislation last year but lawmakers ran out of time to reach an agreement, Ramos said, according to the bill’s legislative analysis. The bill was approved by the state Assembly in March and unanimously by the Senate in May.
After a 25-year moratorium on cardroom expansion expired on Jan. 1, tribes operating gambling establishments came together to support AB 341.
The Cahuilla Band of Indians, Commerce Casino and Hotel, Hawaiian Gardens Casino, Kings Card Club, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, and the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians co-sponsored the bill.
“The overwhelming support for AB 341 by state legislators, tribes and cardrooms aligns with the will of California voters who have consistently stood with Indian tribes in support of gaming on federally- recognized tribal lands while opposing overexpansion of gaming across the state,” said Morongo Tribal Chairman Charles Martin in a statement.
Keith Sharp, president of the California Cardroom Alliance, also supported the moratorium, saying “This new law will provide smaller cardrooms and their communities the opportunity to grow over time and create new jobs and local economic benefits without oversaturating the gaming market.”
Seven Mile Casino in Chula Vista opposed the bill, arguing that limiting tables to fewer than 20 created an arbitrary line within the industry, according to the Assembly’s legislative analysis. The table limitations upend the status quo in the industry and adversely impact the communities they serve, the casino said.
The Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians was also opposed to the new moratorium, saying it continues expanding illegal gaming in the cardrooms, according to the analysis.
“It is important to note that almost every cardroom in our surrounding vicinity have fewer than  tables, which would allow those cardrooms to do even greater harm to our casino due to their ability to increase the play of illegal games,” the tribe said, according to the analysis.