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US – California Gaming Association slams tribal casinos for staying open

By - 21 December 2020

The California Gaming Association (CGA), a trade association that represents the licensed commercial cardrooms in California, has criticised tribal casinos in the state for staying open amid rising COVID-19 cases

As sovereign nations, Native American tribes are not required to follow the state’s stay-at-home order, but with hospitals reaching capacity limits following statewide stay-at-home orders effective December 5, the association is saying the tribal casinos must do the responsible thing and shut. The association also reaffirmed its opposition against a 2022 ballot initiative from a coalition of tribes to expand their gambling options, including sports betting.

The CGA said: “Agua Caliente is encouraging people to ‘party on’ at their casino, Cache Creek’s promotion of its private New Year’s Eve party and other tone-deaf efforts by tribal casinos to profit from COVID-19.” The trade body said submitting signatures of their “flawed Gambling Monopoly Initiative is yet another example of callous behaviour in the face of extreme hardship for most Californians. The initiative is consistent with the tribal champagne celebrations during a pandemic that has claimed the lives of 20,000 Californians, shuttered thousands of California businesses and put millions out of work highlighting tribal casinos’ commitment to profits over people.”

The CGA explained that the ballot initiative is “designed to award tribal casinos a monopoly on all gambling including roulette and craps with only limited onsite sports wagering, all without paying any taxes to support public health, social services and safety. The initiative also circumvents the tribes’ failed court efforts (most recently in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals) to give tribes police-like powers over non-tribal gambling operators such as state-licensed cardrooms and charitable bingo operators. The tribal initiative will result in hundreds of frivolous new lawsuits against cardrooms and cardroom customers, a clear effort to intimidate and drive cardrooms out of business.”

Kyle Kirkland, President of the California Gaming Association, said: “With ICUs at capacity across the state, restaurants, family amusement centers, theme parks, entertainment venues, cardrooms and thousands of California businesses have been required to close, putting millions of Californians out of work during the holidays. Yet tribal casinos continue to encourage crowds to gather indoors without any state oversight of their health and safety practices. Multiple outbreaks of COVID-19 have been traced to tribal casinos, but tribes are focused on one thing only—profits at all costs, even over the lives of Californians,including their own members. Their flawed Gambling Monopoly Initiative is consistent with their selfish focus and goal of monopolising gambling in California.”

Newspaper reports claim that tribal casinos have been operating with indoor gaming, dining, indoor bars, live concerts and lax enforcement of any rules, while many counties report they will soon run out of ICU space.

The California Gaming Association said that under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, every tribal gambling ordinance must include a public health and safety protection clause.

“If the health and safety of the public is at risk, California can step in to shut tribal casinos and protect the public,” it said. “Rather than helping reduce the spread of COVID-19 and relieve California’s health emergency, tribal casinos lure Californians to visit their indoor facilities to gamble, drink, attend concerts and other gatherings prohibited across the state. This disregard of the statewide effort to contain the pandemic puts employees, casinos guests and all Californians at risk for their health and safety,” concluded Mr. Kirkland. “We believe California voters will remember the tribes’ self-centered actions in 2022 and reject this greedy attempt to build a gambling monopoly at the cost of Californian lives and taxpayers.”

Caption: Agua Caliente casino

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