California Court dismisses tribal card games lawsuit


A California court has dismissed a lawsuit filed by three Indian tribes that claimed the state government had violated their gaming compacts. 

The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation alleged that their agreements with the state gave them exclusive rights to games such as baccarat and blackjack.

The lawsuit, filed in January this year, claimed that the trio’s compacts covered exclusive rights to games where patrons play against the house. The tribes asked the judge to prohibit California cardrooms from offering these products and restrict them to peer-to-peer card games such as poker.

However Judge John Menendez argued that the tribe’s most recent compacts did not guarantee a right of exclusivity, as was the case for compacts agreed in 1999. He said the state was under no obligation to maintain the tribes’ exclusive rights to such games. 

The verdict was welcomed by California Gaming Association president Kyle Kirkland, who described the lawsuit as “an attempt to eliminate competition from local cardrooms, threatening thousands of California families and dozens of communities statewide.

“We will continue to oppose specious tribal attacks on our industry, employees and communities,” Kirkland continued. “Tens of thousands of Californians count on cardroom living wage jobs to support their families, and dozens of communities rely on the tax revenue we generate to support vital public services.

“We will not stand by quietly while wealthy tribes try to misuse court resources to hurt our employees, their families and our communities.”

The tribes said they are considering challenging Judge Menendez’ verdict in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

“Despite the court’s ruling, the tribes will continue their efforts, through whatever means necessary, to preserve the rights guaranteed to them,” they said.