Suggestion 26: California cardrooms fight gambling measures that could shut them down

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — If Proposition 26 is passed this November, another form of gambling would be allowed at horse tracks and tribal casinos in California: sports betting.

Proceeds from the proposal would go to the state’s general fund, which lawmakers could use to address homelessness, as Prop. 26 promises. But those funds could also be spent on education, fighting wildfires, transportation, healthcare, or other issues.

“A responsible step-by-step approach to legalizing sports betting in California,” said Kathy Fairbanks, spokeswoman for the Yes on 26 campaign. “All bets must be placed in person at either the 66 tribal casinos or four racetracks across the state. It gives people in these establishments the opportunity to ensure that underage players do not gamble. You must identify yourself.”

“The problem with expanding to the internet is that there is no foolproof way to ensure children are not playing online. With personal sports betting you can ensure this.”

But some California gambling operators oppose Proposition 26: Cardrooms. There are seven cardrooms in Los Angeles County and a total of 78 in California.

“There are interests, especially tribal interests, who don’t think cardrooms should exist. And so it’s part of their tactic to be able to take out what they see as their competition,” said Juan Garza, who represents five LA County cardrooms that disagree with Prop. 26.

Cardrooms and the cities that host them oppose Prop. 26 over a provision that allows private attorneys representing tribal casinos to sue cardrooms for the types of card games they offer.

“While Prop. 26 looks good to many people, the reality of Prop. 26 is there are many hidden little poison pills in it. And one of those would absolutely devastate communities like Hawaiian Gardens,” Garza said.

The Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens offers games such as poker and blackjack. This also applies to the Commerce Casino in the trading city. In Hawaiian Gardens, 70% of the city’s overall finances are tied to the casino.

“Before this cardroom was in Hawaiian Gardens, there was rampant crime. The city could not support itself financially. When this cardroom came into this community, he just turned his fortune around. Residents here can enjoy free services like parks and rec. The quality of life here has improved drastically. They created jobs, provided scholarships for students,” Garza said.

Fifteen percent of Proposition 26 revenue would go to problem gaming programs. Timothy Fong of UCLA’s Gambling Studies program says California currently offers more gambling opportunities than any other state in the country.

“Expansion of regulated gambling, there will be more discussion, there will be more acceptance, there will be more availability. These are things that can create more addiction. At the same time, if you introduce health protection measures, more prevention, more education, more understanding of the signs of addiction, you can reduce those addiction percentages,” Fong said.

When asked why cardrooms are not included in Proposition 26, the Yes on 26 campaign sent Eyewitness News the following explanation:

“Cardroom casinos and their gambling bankers have a well-documented history of flouting the law and have been fined millions of dollars for violating anti-money laundering laws, misleading regulators and engaging in illegal gambling.”

Copyright © 2022 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved. Suggestion 26: California cardrooms fight gambling measures that could shut them down

Laura Coffey

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