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California Card Clubs

Card Clubs are one of California's oldest forms of legal gambling.  In 2016, 89 Card Clubs have active licenses but only 76 are operating compared to 150 in operation in 1999.  A small percentage of the clubs are large, the remainder small mom and pop operations scattered throughout the State.  Historically, card clubs were regulated by local governments.   Beginning in the mid-1980s the State gradually increased its regulatory oversight.  The stated primary purpose of this increased oversight in California and elsewhere has been to attempt to prevent criminal activity from being associated with these businesses.

In 1998, then Attorney General Daniel Lungren and Senate Pro Tem Bill Lockyer introduced and passed the California Gambling Control Act.  (SB 8 was enacted; the language is in Business and Professions Code: 19800 – 19887)   The Act developed the California Gambling Control Commission and the Bureau of Gambling Control in the California Department of Justice. The Commission and the Bureau are responsible for the development of policy, regulatory oversight and enforcement of the States gaming laws at California card clubs.

California card clubs have multi-jurisdictional layers of regulation.   At the local level gaming interests must secure a gaming ordinance.  The ordinance must then be approved by the State of California Bureau of Gambling Control and the Commission.  

    * Extensive background checks are performed on the owner operators as well as family members.

    * Local ordinances must be approved by the host jurisdiction. This exposes the newly proposed or proposed expansion of card clubs to a vote and or referendum by the electorate of the community.  

    * No publicly owned corporations may be invested in California card clubs.

The State of California currently has a moratorium to 2020 on the issuance of new licenses which for now regulates the growth of this industry. Additional limits have been established to regulate the expansion of established operations and require the approval of local electorate. The State provides a uniform approach to background checks and licensing approvals. .

A moratorium on the issuance of licenses for card club expansion is an impermanent policy and as the legislative record of the last decade demonstrates can be amended by the State Legislature at any time.