California Gaming Association Calls for Governor to Close Tribal Casinos

  • The California Gaming Association sent a letter to the governor to ask him to close tribal casinos
  • Coronavirus cases have been increasing rapidly in the state since the start of the month
  • All cardrooms had to close again on July 13
  • CGA president says a gaming compact clause can be used to justify a tribal casino shutdown
Fountain pen resting on hand-written letter
The California Gaming Association wants Governor Gavin Newsome to temporarily shut down tribal casinos because of coronavirus health and safety concerns. [Image:]

Taking a stand

The California Gaming Association (CGA) has sent a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom requesting the closure of the state’s tribal casinos.

The CGA represents the interests of the cardrooms in the state and believes that tribal casinos need to be closed to help combat the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. This request comes even though the tribes have sovereign status. 

With cases of coronavirus rising rapidly in California in recent weeks, Governor Newsom ordered the closure of all cardrooms on July 13. Many had already closed at the start of the month. Tribal casinos, however, do not have to follow orders from the state government because of their sovereign status. 

Gaming compact clause

CGA president Kyle Kirkland believes that a tribal gaming compact clause can be used by the governor to force the casinos closed. A clause in the compact says that tribal sovereignty cannot supersede public health.

The Tribe shall not conduct Class III Gaming in a manner that endangers the public health, safety, or welfare”

Specifically, the clause reads: “The Tribe shall not conduct Class III Gaming in a manner that endangers the public health, safety, or welfare, provided, however, that nothing herein shall be construed to make applicable to the Tribe any state laws or regulations governing the use of tobacco.”

Kirkland believes that the governor has the power to shut down tribal casinos if there is a real health and safety risk. There has been no indication that Governor Newsom is considering such action. Tribal sovereignty is a very politically sensitive issue in California, and any move to close casinos will likely be met with strong action by tribal gaming interests.

An ongoing concern

All indoor activities in places like bars, restaurants, museums, and entertainment venues were halted on Monday after there were 8,000 new recorded virus cases in the state on Sunday.

While most of the tribal casinos in California closed during the initial pandemic lockdown period, many started reopening early against the governor’s wishes.

The state’s card rooms only reopened a few weeks ago, while many of the tribal casinos began reopening as early as the middle of May. To date, there have been over 336,000 confirmed cases of the virus in the state, with 7,086 deaths.

Long-running battle

The card rooms and gaming tribes in California do not see eye to eye, mainly because the tribes believe that the card rooms infringe upon their exclusive right to offer certain casino games. 

would have given a concession to card rooms in return for allowing tribes and racetracks to open sportsbooks

The most recent battle between the two groups centered around the issue of legalizing sports betting in the state. The tribes would not accept a legislative compromise that would have given a concession to card rooms in return for allowing tribes and racetracks to open sportsbooks. 

The tribes are now pushing their own legislation that aims to legalize retail sports betting at their casinos. They are currently collecting signatures on a petition to try to get the measure put to a public vote in November 2022, for which the tribes were recently granted a deadline extension because of the pandemic.

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