California Regulators Seek More Details About Kingston Family, Polygamous Group With Ties To Lake Elsinore Casino

Posted on: September 21, 2019, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: September 22, 2019, 11:34h.

The California Gambling Control Commission (CGCC) is pushing for more financial details about Ted and Joseph Kingston, the owners of a cardroom in that state and members of the allegedly polygamous Utah family by the same surname.

California regulators are clamoring for financial details on the Lake Elsinore Casino and its owners, the controversial Kingston family. (Image: Riverside Press-Enterprise)

The Lake Elsinore Casino in Riverside County has been operating with temporary licenses for about two decades. In July, an administrative law judge declined to approve a permanent gaming permit for the venue, but left the door open for the Kingstons to eventually get that approval.

Earlier this week, administrative law Judge Theresa Brehl, the same judge that made the July ruling on the gaming license, sided with the CGCC, noting the agency can further investigate the Kingstons’ finances before a ruling on a permanent gaming license is made.

In court documents, a holding company called Sahara Dunes Casino, LP is listed as the owner of the Riverside County gaming property, with Ted and Joseph Kingston named as the owners of that entity. Joseph Kingston, whose health is believed to be declining, is seeking to transfer his stake in the company to a cousin, Chad Benson.

That effort was previously approved by Judge Brehl. But it doesn’t mean California regulators will sign off on a permanent gaming license.

The Commission cannot adopt the Proposed Decision because the evidence is simply not sufficient to determine whether the applicants are suitable – or not – to conduct controlled gambling in filing,” according to recent court filings.

Golden State cardrooms, of which the Lake Elsinore Casino is one, are not traditional gaming venues. California’s casino landscape is dominated by tribal venues, which feature both slots and table games. But cardrooms are not permitted to have gaming machines.

Checkered Past, Present Competition

Operating in Riverside County, also known as the Inland Empire, the Lake Elsinore Casino butts heads with some of the region’s highest-grossing tribal gaming properties, including Morongo and Pechanga. Those are two of the largest casinos in the Western US.

The Kingston family, which is often cast in a negative light on the reality television show “Escaping Polygamy,” has several other business interests that are not necessarily aligned with the Mormon faith they supposedly espouse. With an estimated net worth of $311 million, the family has stakes in pawn shops, a firearms manufacturer, and a bank that, allegedly, isn’t overseen by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), in addition to the California gaming property.

In a letter to the Salt Lake Tribune dated July 26, Ted Kingston’s lawyer says his client “is not, and has never been, involved in polygamy.”

Polygamy, the act of having multiple spouses, is illegal throughout the US.

Peering Into Finances

The CGCC court document doesn’t comment on the Kingston’s marital proclivities. But it does make a slew of requests related to learning more about Joseph’s and Ted’s finances.

For example, the commission wants information on how Ted Kingston acquired his interest in Sahara Dunes from his parents, Clyde and Rachel Kingston. Additionally, the CGCC wants to know the dates and the manner in which those transactions took place.

The commission is also asking for details on the operator’s accounting methods, and whether or not a convicted felon, unnamed in the court filing, was previously employed at the gaming venue.

The agency also inquired about regulatory oversight of the shifts in interests in Sahara Dunes, questioning whether, if relevant California agencies did not sign off on the deals, that could void the Kingston’s stake in the Lake Elsinore Casino.

CGCC is also requesting details on Joseph Kingston’s plans to transfer his Sahara Dunes interest to Benson. That request includes providing details about financing sources and ensuring the transactions are in compliance with California’s Gambling Control Act.

Brehl is expected to hear the case again sometime in 2020.