The California Bell Club has agreed to pay $75,000 in civil penalties and restitution to settle a consumer protection lawsuit filed by state officials on behalf of about 200 card dealers.
The complaint was filed by the state Department of Industrial Relations in December, 1984, after dealers charged that Bell club officials were illegally deducting up to 40% of their wages because they received tips from customers. Dealers were paid minimum wage by the poker club. State labor officials argued the deductions were illegal. They estimated the club withheld up to $300,000 in wages from dealers during a 12-month period in 1983 and 1984.
At the same time, dealers were required to pay a one-time deposit of $200 to $400 for their trays of poker chips, said Roderick Leonard, a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney who handled the state’s case against the Bell club. Although the money was returned to the dealers when they left the Bell club, Leonard said the poker club illegally held the money in a special account, collecting interest on an estimated $100,000 in deposits.
State officials also alleged that dealers were forced to rent lockers from the club to store their chips while on breaks or not working. About $200,000 in rental fees for the lockers were collected by club officials, said Leonard, a member of the district attorney’s consumer protection division.
All of the alleged labor violations occurred under the club’s previous management. To avoid a costly court fight, attorneys for the club’s new operators said they decided to settle the case, agreeing to pay the penalties and stop deducting dealers’ wages and charging for lockers. In addition, any money deposited for chip trays will be held in a separate account with all interest going to the dealers.
About half the $75,000 goes to the county, with the remainder to be divided among the dealers, Leonard said. The financially troubled club has until November, 1986, to pay the fines.