The Forum article by Dave Palermo presents a skewed perspective on California’s gaming industry, suggesting that the card room segment is characterized by lax oversight and conflicts of interest (“Gambling needs better oversight”; Forum, Jan. 18). Palermo’s commentary presents this long-standing $1.8 billion industry segment – a source of 22,000 living wage jobs and valuable tax revenue to communities across the state – in an unfair light.
Palermo’s claim that the card room industry is the “wild, wild west” and that “internal controls are nil” resonates with his tribal audience but comes up short with fact-checkers. Since 1998, the California Gambling Control Commission has enacted numerous regulations and has implemented a detailed set of internal controls for card rooms covering responsible gambling, security and surveillance, cage and count-room procedures and casino floor operations. These so-called “minimum internal controls” exceed independent controls imposed on tribal casinos by a wide margin.
The unspoken truth is that tribes collect more than 70 percent of total gaming revenue in California with limited independent oversight. Some tribes operated illegal slot machines for years, others have offered suspect craps and roulette games, and most share less revenue than they would in other states. While the commission has some jurisdiction over tribal operations, much of their governance and compliance is hidden from public view. In contrast, card rooms operate pursuant to published state and local regulations, are required to comply with all local, state and federal laws and are judged in public, bimonthly commission meetings.
Palermo’s article highlights troubling accusations by the attorney general related to a single card room but offers no perspective from others in the industry. In fact, most card rooms welcome regulatory oversight to ensure the integrity of the industry. In any case, drawing conclusions based on an as yet unheard accusation is like assuming that incidents like the armed takeover which panicked customers and prompted the attorney general to ask a federal judge to close a Fresno-area tribal casino last year are common at tribal casinos.
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It is fair of Palermo to say that the current, bifurcated regulatory system would benefit from better coordination, improved training and additional staff resources. But as presented in The Bee, his article is a disguised propaganda piece aimed at slighting the card room industry and advancing the position of tribal casino interests.
Joe Patterson is executive director of the California Gaming Association.