On Saturday, June 1, LAPD officers made a significant bust. At 4:30 p.m. Friday, officers served a search warrant at a building on the 200 block of North Vermont Ave., believing that the building was being used for illegal activity. Upon investigating the property, officers found a slew of gambling machines, narcotics and cash. When people in the building refused to leave, the LAPD called in a SWAT team, who used smoke grenades to get them out.
At least 35 people were detained the following Saturday morning after Friday’s raid.
California Penal Code 330 PC, California’s anti-gaming law, makes it illegal to engage in “banking” or “percentage” games. While other laws, including 337 PC (California’s anti-bookmaking law) and 332 PC (California’s gambling fraud law), target individuals who are taking part in gambling operations, under Penal Code 330 PC, it is also illegal to engage in the activity of gambling itself. Therefore, California Penal Code 330 PC is the one often used to charge players as opposed to operators.
California’s definition of “gaming” includes dealing, playing, carrying on, opening, or conducting, any “prohibited game,” whether being hired to do so or not. A “prohibited game” is any game that is either a “banking game,” a “percentage game,” or both. A “banking game” is any game that includes a “bank” or “house” that takes money from losers and pays money to winners. A “percentage game” is any game of chance in which a “house” takes a percentage of the total bets made or the winnings.
Games that fall under California’s prohibited games list include traditional gambling games, like twenty one and roulette, as well as lesser-known games of chance, including Faro, Monte, and Fan-tan. Interestingly, it’s up to a judge – and not a jury – to decide whether or not a game qualifies as a “banking” or “percentage” game. Also, 330 PC can apply to any game that isn’t known to be a traditional gambling game, as well as games that don’t typically include a “house” but are altered to do so.
There are a few notable exceptions to California Penal Code 330 PC. For the most part, bingo games conducted by charitable organizations for charitable purposes do not count under 330 PC. However, for a game to qualify as a charitable bingo game, it has to meet a certain set of specific criteria, including but not limited to: being held by a city or county that has passed an ordinance that allows for those types of games to be held, and the proceeds from the game are only used for charitable purposes.
Violations of California Penal Code 330 PC are considered misdemeanors in California, and the possible penalties include misdemeanor probation, up to six months in county jail, and/or a fine of at least $100 and no more than $1,000.
It’s unknown whether any of the over 35 people detained by police were charged with violations of 330 PC, or if the proprietors received any additional charges. However, due to the presence of narcotics, it’s highly likely that additional charges will be pressed.