Steve Ruddock Gardens Casino CA problem gambling

March is best known in the gambling world for March Madness.

Americans will wager more than $10 billion, most of it illegally, on the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament this year. This is according to the American Gaming Association.

But March is also national Problem Gambling Awareness Month. Casinos across the country use the opportunity to educate patrons and raise awareness of gambling disorders and the responsible gaming programs they have instituted.

As part of Problem Gambling Awareness Month, California’s Office of Problem Gambling held a two-day summit during which the Gardens Casino was commended for its responsible gaming program and efforts. The previous name of Gardens Casino was Hawaiian Gardens Casino.

The office created the recognition to highlight businesses and individuals for “providing quality, research-driven leadership in prevention, intervention, and treatment for problem gamblers, their families and communities.”

Said California Gaming Association Executive Director Joe Patterson:

“The Gardens Casino is setting the standard for administering a distinguishable responsible gambling program.

It is an outstanding achievement to be recognized by the Office of Problem Gambling. This award is a testament to the commitment of the California card room industry to ensure a safe, fair and enjoyable customer experience.”

Much-needed positivity for Gardens Casino

The accolade couldn’t have come at a better time; no California card room needed good news more than the Gardens Casino.

The state is threatening to revoke Gardens Casino’s license for past acts of failing to follow anti-money laundering laws and not disclosing a federal investigation when Gardens applied for its most recent license renewal. Last year, FinCEN fined Gardens $2.8 million for lax AML policies.

To help make sure its financial house is in order and that all regulations are being followed, Gardens brought in attorney Keith Sharp last March as its general counsel.

“We’ve made tremendous steps in improving our programs,” Sharp told the Long Beach Press-Telegram earlier this year.

According to Sharp, Gardens has expanded its compliance team and hired an outside consultant to advise employees on federal requirements. It has also instituted monthly meetings between the compliance teams and management.

Sharp is confident the casino won’t lose its license. He says a settlement with the state is the most likely outcome.

The potential loss of its license would be devastating for the city of Hawaiian Gardens. Gardens Casino accounts for about 70 percent of its revenue and is the largest employer in the city.

The new and improved Gardens Casino

When it opened for business in 1997, the former Hawaiian Gardens Casino was nothing more than a bunch of card tables covered by what amounted to a large tent.

The casino erected the tent as a temporary solution until it could build a permanent structure. The “temporary” structure remained for nearly 20 years.

Hawaiian Gardens was finally upgraded in 2016, when the casino’s $90 million expansion project was completed. Hawaiian Gardens transformed its tent casino into the Gardens Casino. The new facility, an actual building, more than tripled the casino’s square footage. It also included major upgrades to the onsite amenities.

“Our business keeps growing, so this expansion was designed specifically for our guests so that we can provide the premier gaming and dining experience in Southern California,” said Gardens Casino General Manager Ron Sarabi in a press release at the time.

“The new casino provides our guests with a truly elevated experience, including more space, state-of-the-art card tables and amenities, two designated VIP areas and a diverse restaurant and bar all within our new building.”

Image c/o Gardens Casino

Steve Ruddock
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