California Considers Eliminating Blackjack from Cardrooms Due to Legal Dispute

California is contemplating a regulatory change that could ban blackjack-style games in the state’s cardrooms. The California Bureau of Gambling Control (BGC) has released draft regulations aimed at prohibiting blackjack-style games and altering the rotation of player-dealer positions in California cardrooms. The proposed regulation explicitly states that “any game of blackjack shall not be approved for play.”

This move is intended to resolve a longstanding dispute between California Indian tribes and cardrooms regarding house-banked games. Under Proposition 1A from 2000, tribes have exclusive rights to offer house-banked games in California. Penal Code 330 prohibits other gambling establishments from offering games involving a “bank” or “percentage,” with a specific focus on blackjack.

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The BGC has allowed California cardrooms that previously offered approved blackjack games to continue operating them for one year after the new regulations come into effect. Additionally, it outlines criteria for cardrooms to develop an acceptable variation of blackjack that excludes a “bust” feature or a target point count of 21. Instant wins will not occur when a player receives an ace with a face card or a ten, and ties between the player and dealer must result in a win for the player.

Proposed regulations with similar objectives were introduced in 2019 but were delayed due to the pandemic and the departure of then-Attorney General Xavier Becerra to join President Joe Biden’s administration. The current regulatory process may take several years before potentially leading to legal battles.

Tuari Bigknife, Attorney General of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, expressed concerns about the lengthy regulatory process and potential legal hurdles. Bigknife noted that procedural rulings by judges could undo years of regulatory work, causing significant delays. The resolution of this issue could take five to seven more years if it proceeds through the courts primarily on procedural grounds.

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