Artichoke Joe's Casino in San Bruno and the Oaks Card Club in Emeryville paid $575,000 each in fines and investigation costs as well as agreeing to better oversee their card rooms, said Pamela Mares of the California Gambling Control Commission. If they violate any conditions of the settlement over the next two years, they could be ordered to pay another $275,000 each in fines under the terms of the May 9 agreement.
Federal and state authorities raided the casinos in March following a multiyear investigation that confirmed allegations that Asian gangs and some employees had been loaning money to broke players at exorbitant interest rates. They allegedly then threatened the debtors if they couldn't pay up. Law enforcement officials also said drugs were being dealt out of the casinos and arrested at least 15 people.
The clubs were allowed to reopen after the gambling commission, which regulates gaming in California, decided the owners of the clubs were not part of the loan sharking or drug dealing. They have been operating since without their Asian gaming tables, but the settlement allows them to resume those games.
Alan Titus, an attorney who represents the owners of Artichoke Joe's, said five employees with ties to the crimes have been fired. Up to eight more are still under investigation and could still lose their jobs.  He said the settlement calls for improved supervision of the Asian gaming tables -- which was the site of the loan sharking -- and eliminates certain troubled practices.
Players, for example, won't be able to use cellphones at the tables, a change that was provoked by calls to loan sharks. There will also be more managers keeping an eye on the Asian gaming tables.
Titus said the owners were unaware of the crimes, at least partly because they don't speak Chinese.
"This biggest problem was a language problem," he added.
Oaks owner John Tibbetts said the Asian games will reopen Thursday, but declined to make further comments.
"(The settlement) will be complied with," he said when reached by phone at the club. "I really can't say anymore."
Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335.