California's Voter-Approved Gambling Laws Must Be Enforced

Today, cardrooms across California brazenly play and freely advertise illegal card games with no enforcement from the State. 


California voters and the State Legislature have created clear laws, which prohibit cardrooms from playing card games like "twenty-one" (blackjack) and any form of “banked” game, including baccarat.


The State must enforce its own laws because otherwise the will of the voters and their representatives is meaningless. Why does the State continue to ignore these illegal games?

Three California Tribes Are Suing the State to Do One Simple Thing:

Enforce the Gambling Laws and Rules Approved by California Voters and the Legislature!

  • Since 1891, the game “twenty-one” (blackjack) has been specifically illegal under California law (except in Native American casinos), yet state officials continue to allow cardrooms to play – and even brazenly advertise – the illegal game. 


  • The California Constitution and Penal Code prohibit the play of "banked" card games – where the players bet against the house – to anyone but compacted tribes, which obtained that right when the people of California approved Proposition 1A. Yet, the State has allowed cardrooms to freely operate such games (including blackjack and baccarat) using a scheme specifically designed to evade the law.


  • The Gambling Control Act prohibits cardrooms from having “any interest, whether direct or indirect, in funds wagered, lost, or won,” yet the cardrooms make almost all their money from these funds by taking payments from the dealers/bankers at each of their tables.


Why Sue Now?

This is not a new problem. In 2000, the California voters approved a constitutional amendment (Proposition 1A) which guaranteed Indian tribes that negotiate compacts with the State the exclusive right to offer Las Vegas-style games within their facilities. Not long after, the cardrooms began to play those same games, though State law strictly prohibits them from doing so. More than seven years ago, the tribes brought their concerns to the State’s attention. Though the State has acknowledged the cardrooms’ conduct is illegal, it has done virtually nothing to curb it.

Economic Impact in California

Tribal Casinos versus Cardrooms

Economic Impact

Tribal Casinos

$19.9 billion


$2.52 billion


Tribal Casinos





Tribal Casinos

$8.95 billion


$1.29 billion

Taxes and Revenue Sharing

Tribal Casinos

$3.44 billion


$487.5 million

Who's Involved?

The Yocha Dehe

Wintun Nation

The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation is an independent, self-governed nation that supports our people and the Capay Valley community by strengthening our culture, stewarding our land and creating economic independence for future generations.

The Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians

The Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians stands out as one of the nation’s most respected gaming tribes, and as leaders in political advocacy of economic sovereignty and in the promotion of tribal government businesses throughout the nation.

The Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation

Members of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation have resided in and around the foothills of the Dehesa Valley for more than 12,000 years. Today they are a modern government providing public services to their members, employees and neighbors.

Anthony Roberts

Yocha Dehe Tribal Chairman

State law, the Constitution and our compacts are all very clear about our exclusive right to operate house-banked, casino-style card games.  We did not want to file this suit. But, cardrooms continue to play and brazenly advertise these games, even though it’s patently illegal for them to do so. We are asking the State to simply do its job and enforce the gaming laws and rules California’s voters and State Legislature have put in place.

John Christman

Viejas Band Tribal Chairman

Since 2012, we have sought resolution through the agencies and individuals responsible for enforcing these laws and preventing illegal gambling activity in California. Going to court is regrettably our last recourse, only because of the State’s continued inaction against such blatant illegal activity. If California enforced its current laws, we would not have filed this lawsuit.

Cody J. Martinez

Sycuan Tribal Chairman

Sycuan is proud of the government-to-government relationship we have established with Governor Brown and the State Legislature. Unfortunately, when it comes to illegal activity conducted by cardrooms, the State has failed in its obligation to enforce the law. We hope with this action that a fair and impartial judge will quickly and accurately determine the facts.

Contact Us


Additional Contact Info

Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

Jeff Butler


Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians

Tuari Bigknife


Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation

Adam Day, Chief Administrative Officer


© 2020 by Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation