California cardrooms are asking Gov. Gavin Newsom to shut down tribal casinos in the Golden State.
At the start of July, in response to a second wave of COVID-19 cases, Newsom ordered commercial cardrooms, and other indoor businesses, in 19 counties to close for a second time. They can reopen when he feels it is safe to allow guests to gamble again.
With tribal casinos operating on sovereign land, those properties were not forced to comply with the directive. The cardrooms are speaking out and claiming that Newsom has the authority to force them closed.
The California Gaming Association, a trade association that represents the licensed commercial cardrooms in California, penned a letter to the governor urging him to close down the tribal properties and outlining why they feel Newsom has the legal right to do so.
“In response to your July 1 order, all cardrooms in the targeted counties are now closed,” read the letter. “In contrast, all tribal casinos in the targeted counties remain open. This is inconsistent with your directive and public health and safety protocols.”
The CGA pointed to section 12.1 of the gaming compact between the tribes and the state, which they felt addressed the current state of the pandemic. The compact states that “The Tribe shall not conduct Class III Gaming in a manner that endangers the public health, safety or welfare.”
In an interview with an ABC affiliate, CGA President Kyle Kirkland said that if the state is going to contain the virus, it will take a unified response.
“Our position is that if we are all in this together, then we’re all in this together,” said Kirkland. “If there is a genuine risk to the health and safety of the public, which I believe there is, and I think we have all bought into, the idea is ‘Hey, use your authority to make it happen.’”
Despite many cardrooms being forced to stay closed well into June, most tribal casinos began reopening in May. Those same properties are allowed to stay open while many of the state’s largest cardrooms were shuttered again.