Online poker legislation in California continues to be held back by seven Indian tribes divided into three groups with separate agendas.
The contentious issues of whether to include bad actors and racetracks remains at the heart of the impasse, as has been the case for quite some time. But with certain tribes appearing more willing to do without online poker than compromise and let those gaming interests participate in a Golden State ipoker regime, the stalemate may continue.
The Morongo and San Manuel tribes, together with PokerStars and three cardrooms, make up one of the groups. The PokerStars coalition is behind a bill (AB 167) recently proposed by Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer that includes horse racing interests and contains no bad actor language.
The other online poker bill on the table in the 2015 legislative session is AB 9, introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gatto in December. The United Auburn Indian Community, along with the Pala and Rincon tribes, seem to prefer AB 9, which contains bad actor provisions and excludes racetracks.
Pala and United Auburn have found gaming partners in Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment. The Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians have signed an agreement to collaborate with Caesars Entertainment.
The third group consists of the Agua and Pechanga tribes. Those two strongly oppose the inclusion of bad actors and racetracks. Politically connected in a powerful way, Pechanga and Agua would rather see no online poker than to bend, Pechanga.net reported.
California Governor Jerry Brown has gone on record as saying he will not sign online poker legislation that does not include the horse racing industry. That is likely the reason why the racetracks seem relatively quiet whenever a new ipoker bill is introduced. They have the big guy in their corner.
It is presumed that the issues separating the groups will be raised during the Western Indian Gaming Conference (WIGC) 2015 that will take place from February 10-12. Held at Harrah’s Resort in Valley Center, California, this will be the 20th annual meeting of the WIGC.
While many online poker advocates had hoped that 2015 would be the year that California tribes would be able to find common ground, the odds don’t look all that promising. Compromise seems to be a dirty word to some tribes, who continue to stand in the way of what many anticipate to be a quite lucrative market considering California’s population of some 38 million.
Industry observers believe that approved ipoker legislation in California would prompt other states to follow suit. But that likely won’t happen until the state’s huge tribes can reach accord on the same issues that have been stalling progress since 2009.