Illegal Gambling Targeted in New Law by Assemblymember Salas
SACRAMENTO – Last week, Assembly Bill (AB) 1294, authored by Assemblymember Salas, was signed into law. This bill strengthens the ability of local law enforcement agencies and the California Department of Justice (DOJ) to go after the bank accounts of international gangs and organized criminals who are convicted of operating illegal gambling sites.
“With the passage of AB 1294, law enforcement will have the tools they need to permanently shut down more illegal gambling operations,” said Assemblymember Salas. “Throughout California, we have seen how these illegal operations have cheated and endangered people by acting as a magnet for more serious crimes such as prostitution and drug trafficking. I appreciate the Governor’s decision to sign this important legislation which will improve public safety for hard hit communities.”
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 these illegal sites. While this legislation helped start the closure of these illegal businesses, the games are so profitable that operators are often able to open new locations faster than law enforcement can shut them down. In Kern County alone, the Sheriff’s Office has raided 100 of these establishments in a little over a year.
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.”
By seizing the illegal assets of these criminals, operators will be cut off from their money and will be unable to rapidly reopen new illegal gambling sites.
The American Gaming Association estimates that 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 establishments siphon gambling revenue from the state lottery and state-licensed gambling businesses and have been linked to drugs, property crimes, robberies, violent felonies, human trafficking and organized crime overseas.
Instead of relying on small fines and equipment seizures, AB 1294 will enable law enforcement to more permanently impact illegal gambling when prosecuting criminal operators.
This measure will become law on January 1, 2020.
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.