Years ago, card players could easily find a game room in San Diego. The city offered several options to choose from, with over 100 card rooms in operation at one time. For many years, old-style card room owners ruled the area, offering a few gaming tables in a back room of a family-owned business. However, that style of card room ownership has now died away. The last venue with a single owner, Lucky Lady, closed down last month.
The venue was able to last many years, tackling tribal casino competition as well as an FBI investigation. However, in the end, it was the COVID-19 pandemic that caused the card room to shut down permanently.
The End of Lucky Lady Card Room and Casino
Stanley Samuel Penn was the owner of the Lucky Lady Card Room and Casino. In his early 80s, Penn ran the 11-table venue for an amazing forty years. Just over two years ago, he stood in front of a courtroom where he pled guilty for taking part in a sports betting ring from Lucky Lady.
Penn agreed to a deferred prosecution deal, which stated that if he did not break laws in one year, the case against him would be dismissed. However, if he violated the agreement in any way, he would face jail time.
The gambling operator held up his end of the bargain but was unable to hold on to the card room amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many businesses, the pandemic caused the property to shut down permanently due to zero foot traffic.
Last month, the property was sold to the Family Health Centers of San Diego. The casino card room was closed for good, and the once-bustling card room industry of San Diego was no more.
Card Room Licensing Law in San Diego Killed the Industry
It is interesting to note that back in 1983, the City Council at the time decided to pass a law that prohibited existing card room license holders from transferring, selling, or leasing their license. Basically, the license holder would hold on to the license until they decided to retire or passed away.
At that point, the card room just shut down. Back then, the idea of card rooms was connected with a criminal element. The goal of the law was to eliminate the ‘deleterious effects’ that this type of facility had on the city.
Fast forward to 1996, and new state law was created to issue new licensing for card rooms. Currently, there are 86 active licenses in California. It is only San Diego that has the law regarding transferring or selling licenses.
Essentially, the card room industry was going to die away eventually simply due to the laws on the books. Nothing was done over the years to change anything, so now the city is free of card rooms and players have to travel to other areas to be able to access such games.