Cardrooms bet on upscale future

This poker player's hand is the stuff that dreams are made of.. (Photo: Freer via Shutterstock)

Over the last decade, many California cardrooms have moved beyond their gold rush roots by upgrading and adding hotel and dining options to meet patron demands for the gaming experiences found elsewhere.  Today, more than 75 state-licensed cardrooms operate in California, providing thousands of living-wage jobs and valuable general fund revenue to communities across the state.

Earlier this month, The Bicycle Hotel & Casino in Bell Gardens completed the addition of a four-star, 99-room hotel at its facility, a fixture of the community for over 30 years.  The Bike is one of LA’s original cardrooms, well-known for great food and exciting gaming action.  This $50 million investment in the Bell Gardens community continues The Bike’s legacy as a premier gaming location in Southern California.

The Bike alone contributes more than 40 percent of the Bell Gardens’ general fund, an amount expected to increase in the coming year.

The hotel will add 100 new hospitality and gaming jobs to the surrounding community still struggling to recover from the recession.  Common to the cardroom industry, many of these new jobs will be available to high school graduates with limited training—most cardrooms train from within—and provide living wages.  In a few weeks, these newly trained employees will earn enough to pay the rent, make a car payment, cover child care expenses and spend their wages in the local community, thereby improving the entire region’s economy.

While all cardrooms may not be as glamorous as The Bike, most are just as important to their local economies.  The cardroom industry provides more than 22,000 living-wage jobs and almost $2 billion of annual economic activity to diverse communities across California.  Even a small 5-table cardroom can provide more than 20 living wage jobs to its community.  Industry experts estimate that each of the 1,900 card tables in cardrooms across the state generate 10-12 irreplaceable jobs.

In addition to jobs, cardrooms and their partners contribute more than $100 million in state and local taxes to host communities each year.  Many cardrooms provide a large portion of general fund revenue received by their host city.  The Bike alone contributes more than 40 percent of the Bell Gardens’ general fund, an amount expected to increase in the coming year.  Cardroom general fund contributions help fund vital services like first responders and are a predictable source of revenue for the local tax authorities in many California communities in addition to the charitable donations made to the surrounding areas.

While the growth of California cardrooms has paralleled that of gaming nationwide, regulations covering the cardroom industry have also become more robust and now include extensive internal control standards.  The California Gaming Association has welcomed these increased regulations to ensure a safe, enjoyable experience for customers and a more even playing field for industry participants.  In addition, cardroom owners and employees undergo rigorous background checks by the Bureau of Gambling Control and, once approved by the Gambling Control Commission, remain under ongoing regulatory oversight.  At the same time, the cardroom industry has improved its compliance with federal money-laundering regulations and actively participates in responsible gambling programs.  Overall, cardroom regulations have become more stringent to the benefit of the industry and safety of the general public.

Cardrooms from Bay 101 Casino in San Jose to the Lotus Casino in Sacramento and The Bicycle Hotel & Casino in Bell Gardens are all making investments in the community to improve their existing cardrooms and provide patrons with the modern amenities they find in other gaming jurisdictions.  These expansions come with greater employment opportunities for local residents and increased tax revenues to both the state and local government.  These advancements should be encouraged by state and local regulators as an opportunity to keep valuable economic revenue circulating in California communities and not directed toward out-of-state jurisdictions.

California cardrooms are proud to continue their long legacy in California offering safe, fun gambling and non-gambling entertainment and providing significant contributions to the economic well-being of their host communities.  We welcome cooperative regulatory oversight and look forward to providing economic advantages to our employees, their families and host communities.

Ed’s Note: Kyle Kirkland is president of the California Gaming Association.


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