Local card rooms cry foul over proposed rule changes

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) -- Hundreds of industry advocates, elected officials and employees appeared before the California Bureau of Gambling Control Wednesday in the last of a series of workshops on possible rules changing how card rooms operate.

They say the rules will cause many of them to close, harming a $5.6 billion economy and jeopardizing 32,000 jobs.

Card rooms now get around state gaming laws by having players wager among themselves instead of against the house, with operators collecting a portion of what's wagered. They also operate as third-party facilitators, collecting bets and distributing them to winners.

The new rules require players to take on banking functions for card games and require the game to shut down if players refuse.

Opponents say the ensuing confusion, especially among novice players, would drive them to Native American casinos, which have an exemption from such rules.

"There is no legitimate safety or legal need for these changes," said Kyle Kirkland, president of the California Gaming Association.

But tribal gaming interests say card rooms have been skirting the rules for years. They claim the regulations will not close card rooms.

"We want them just to operate their facilities within the confines of the laws that exist," said Susan Jensen, Executive Director of the Nations Indian Gaming Associations.

"The tribes don't like the fact that our games look like theirs," Kirkland told FOX40.

California Nations Indian Gaming Association Chairman James Siva released the following statement in response to the proposed rule changes:

The card clubs are engaged in a desperate attempt to mislead regulators and the public. We commend the Attorney General and the Bureau of Gambling Control for moving forward with regulations that will clarify current law and ensure a well-regulated gaming industry in California.

Nothing in the proposed regulations would cause a California cardroom to shut down. These regulations merely clarify existing law that limits the types of gaming allowed in California. We look forward to the Bureau of Gambling Control moving forward with the formal rule making process.

Among those protesting the regulations was Citrus Heights Police Chief Ron Lawrence who is also president of the California Police Chiefs Association. He said Stones Gambling Hall is a major supporter of community causes, as well as to the tax base of the city.

His sentiments were echoed by several mayors who have large card rooms in their cities.

The Gambling Board will now consider proposed regulations, although the timeline for a decision is unclear.

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