Posted: July 14, 2020, 8:45 a.m.

Last update on: July 14, 2020, 12:42 p.m.

The California Gaming Association (CGA) has called on Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) to order the state’s tribal casinos to close. The trade body – which represents California’s card clubs, but not its tribal casinos – believes the state has the power to shut down casinos in the event of a health emergency, despite the tribes’ sovereign status.

Gavin Newsom Tribal Gaming Casino Closure
CGA President Kyle Kirkland believes the language used in tribal pacts prevents them from leading Class III games during a deadly pandemic. (Image: YouTube)

The CGA letter comes as Newsom ordered an immediate halt to all indoor activities at restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, zoos and museums in response to a 20% rise in coronavirus infections in California over the course of last week. The state recorded more than 8,000 new cases on Sunday.

California’s many card rooms are included in the order, but not its tribal casinos, which are not subject to state laws. Native American-owned sites began reopening against Newsom’s wishes after their self-imposed lockdown in mid-May.

Political hot potato

But according to CGA chairman Kyle Kirkland, Newsom has no hands tied on the issue. Kirkland believes that a clause in tribal pacts – the gambling agreement they each sign with the state – suggests that tribal sovereignty is no substitute for public health.

It is said:

“The tribe must not conduct Class III games in a manner which endangers public health, safety or welfare, provided, however, that nothing in this document should be construed as making any state laws or regulations governing tobacco use applicable to the Tribe. “

When public health and safety are threatened, you can fix it. “ Kirkland said. “It’s a contract, isn’t it?” This is an agreement between the state and the tribes to offer games in our state. So the deal is that you have to adhere to the contract, and if the governor feels there is a real risk to health and safety, we have to withdraw it. In my opinion, he can do it.

Whether the governor tries to do it is another matter. The issue of tribal sovereignty is extremely politically sensitive. Moreover, any effort by the state to impose its will on tribal gambling would quickly run up against multiple federal lawsuits.

Sports betting space

Tribes and card clubs have long been at odds with each other, mostly over so-called California games, which mimic the casino games the tribes hold exclusive rights over – too closely, according to the tribes. .

A recent legislative effort to legalize sports betting in California failed last week because tribes refused to endorse it or compromise with clubs.

Instead, the tribes want to get a measure on the ballot that, if approved, would legalize sports betting in their casinos, while completely freezing card clubs.

“Our position is that if we’re all in the same boat, we’re all in the same boat,” Kirkland wrote to Newsom.

It is a position that the tribes refuse to share.

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