California Casino Operated by Controversial Polygamous Group Gets Mixed Gaming License Ruling

Posted on: July 12, 2019, 03:37h. 

Last updated on: July 12, 2019, 05:17h.

The Lake Elsinore Casino, a California cardroom owned by a family that allegedly practices polygamy and intra-family marriage, won’t get a permanent gaming license following a recent ruling by an administrative law judge, but there is some wiggle room for the venue to eventually get that approval.

The Lake Elsinore Casino is still without a permanent gaming license, but that could change in the future. (Image: Casino Guide USA)

Administrative Law Judge Theresa Brehl made the ruling last month, but it was not made public until earlier this week. The Southern California cardroom is co-owned by Joseph Kingston, a brother to Paul Kingston, one of the leaders of the secretive, Utah-based Kingston Family.

Often referred to as “The Order,” the clan, founded by brothers Elden and Ortell Kingston, purports to have direct links to Jesus Christ and pushes polygamy and intra-family marriage upon its members as a means of maintaining a form of ethnic purity.

Brehl’s ruling denies, at least for the time being, a permanent gaming permit for Lake Elsinore Casino but has provisions for Joseph Kingston to potentially transfer his stake in the venue to one of his cousins, Chad Benson. Ted Kingston is listed as the property’s other owner, according to the court document.

In 2008, the California Gambling Control Commission (CGCC) recommend that Lake Elsinore Casino’s license application be denied, but follow up from there created issues. In her ruling, Brehl took the CGCC to task for what the judge called a “lengthy and unexplained 20-year delay and inaction” regarding movement on gaming venue’s license.

While the bureau’s delay and inaction between 1999 and late 2015 may not entitle Casino to equitable relief, the manner in which the bureau handled its communications with Casino and its owners during 2016 warrants allowing Casino and its owners an opportunity to submit additional information to continue to pursue licensure,” wrote Brehl in the ruling.

Joseph Kingston, who claims to be in failing health and appears to be leveraging his deteriorating medical condition to transfer his stake in the enterprise to Benson, will be given that opportunity.

“Joseph Kingston shall be afforded an opportunity to seek approval of a transfer of his interests to Mr. Benson, and Mr. Benson shall be allowed to submit an application for licensure,” Brehl.

Cardroom Controversy

California cardrooms differ from the state’s dozens of tribal casinos for several reasons, including no slot machines or gaming machines being present in cardrooms. For example, Lake Elsinore Casino touts table games, including blackjack, Pai Gow poker, and three-card poker among its offerings, but no slots.

Tribal gaming leaders in the Golden State believe they are protected by state law from competing entities offering card games, but the cardrooms claim they are operating within the confines of the law because they do not act as the “house.” Rather, cardrooms in the largest US state take a percentage of each hand played with the dealers acting as the house.

Lake Elsinore Casino is just one holding in a diverse portfolio of businesses, some controversial, run by the Kingstons. In addition to the gaming property, the clan is believed to own pawn shops, a gun maker and even a bank that may not be federally regulated.

The family has an estimated net worth of $311 million and some authorities in Utah previously alleged the group engages in organized crime.

The Kingstons’ stake in a casino is an odd fit when considering more mainstream versions of the Mormon faith typically oppose participation in gambling.

No License, But Resisting Closure

The California Bureau of Gambling Control (CBGC), the investigative body of the state’s gaming regulatory system, previously scrutinized Lake Elsinore Casino and recommended to the California Gaming Commission that the venue lose its license.

California regulators’ efforts to block Joseph Kingston from transferring his interest in the gaming venue are being stymied because, as Judge Brehl notes in her decision, Kingston does not need full licensure to shift his stake in the business to another person.

While the casino did not highlight Kingston’s medical condition in its license application, that does not mean the state gaming commission can ignore his health as an impetus for him wanting to shift his ownership stake to his cousin, ruled Brehl.