Salas Bill to Crackdown on Illegal Gambling Clears Assembly

Thursday, May 2, 2019

SACRAMENTO – Today, Assembly Bill (AB) 1294, authored by Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), passed unanimously out of the Assembly. The bill would allow the Department of Justice (DOJ) and other law enforcement agencies to seize the proceeds from illegal gambling enterprises that are held in the bank accounts of criminal operators.

“I am pleased to work with the Attorney General so that we can put an end to these illegal gambling operations that harm and threaten our communities through dangerous criminal activity associated with and funded by illegal gaming,” said Assemblymember Salas.  “All too often law enforcement will shut down illegal gambling operations – which are commonly fronts for drugs, prostitution, human trafficking and organized crime – only to have more sites reopen at a different location.”

According to Attorney General Xavier Becerra, “AB 1294 strengthens the Department of Justice’s and other local law enforcement agencies’ ability to bring stronger enforcement actions against illegal gambling operators by allowing them to seize the ill-gotten gains from illegal gambling operations that are held in bank accounts.”

AB 1294 will strengthen the Department of Justice’s and other local law enforcement agencies’ ability to go after the bank accounts and assets of international gangs and organized crime that operate illegal gambling sites. Currently, law enforcement lacks necessary enforcement mechanisms to effectively shutter gambling locations.

In Bakersfield, local police made 51 arrests in April of 2018 alone at internet casinos and other businesses that host illegal electronic gaming devices. Most offenses in these cases are only classified as misdemeanors and are treated as a cost of doing business by criminals. Convicted operators are usually fined a few thousand dollars and continue to open up new illicit businesses throughout the state. In a recent case in Santa Ana, 21 individuals were detained and 19 gambling machines were seized at a cyber café used as an illegal gambling facility. In that case, it was noted that “similar operations have been known to reopen at a different location after being shut down.”

AB 1294 builds on legislation authored by Assemblymember Salas in 2014 – AB 1439 – which helped fight illegal sweepstakes gambling cafes in response to concerns from local business owners about an increase in crime near sweepstakes gambling establishments.

The American Gaming Association estimates that this segment of the illegal gambling industry, which includes electronic slot machines and arcade-style gambling games, collects more than $10 billion a year in illegal proceeds. These unlawful operations have been linked to drugs, property crimes, robberies, violent felonies, and organized crime overseas.

Operators of these gambling locations are not licensed, regulated, or subject to criminal background checks. These establishments siphon gambling revenue from the state lottery and state-licensed gambling businesses, thereby reducing the funds that go to public education, health, and social programs. AB 1294 help law enforcement more effectively combat new illegal gambling operations throughout the state. The bill will move next to the California State Senate for consideration.

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Assemblymember Salas represents part of the City of Bakersfield, the cities of Arvin, Hanford, Corcoran, Delano, Lemoore, McFarland, Shafter, Wasco, and the communities of Armona, Avenal, Buttonwillow, Home Garden, Kettleman City, Lamont, Lost Hills, Stratford and Weedpatch.