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California Indian Tribes Introduce Online Poker Bill

As expected, a coalition of Indian tribes in California have released a new online poker bill, sending the proposal to state lawmakers who had previously introduced bills of their own.

Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer and Sen. Lou Correa were in receipt of “The Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2014″ as drafted by a coalition of 13 tribes led by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, the L.A. Times reported. While the tribes have seemingly come together after years of failing to see eye-to-eye on the issue of online gambling, the newly-drafted proposal does not sit well with one particular tribal concern – the Morongo Band of Mission Indians.

The measure includes bad actor language designed to keep PokerStars out. As many are aware, PokerStars, the Morongo tribe, and the Bicycle Casino, Commerce Club and Hawaiian Gardens card rooms have formed an alliance and aim to be included in the Golden State’s online poker scheme.

Industry scuttlebutt surfaced two weeks ago indicating that the bad actor issue would be addressed in the new proposal in such a way as to eventually allow PokerStars in. But the tribal bill as proposed fails to do so, except perhaps allowing alleged bad actors to appeal such a designation.

Efforts by a select few interests to rewrite longstanding and effective policy in order to gain a competitive market advantage or to lock out specific companies is not in the best interests of consumers or the state and will be vigorously opposed by our coalition, online poker players and many others,” stated the Morongo, PokerStars and card room coalition about five weeks ago when tribes first began uniting in an effort to keep PokerStars on the rail.

Opposition is also expected to come from the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG). The organization founded by Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson is likely overjoyed that the coalitions fronted by the Morongo and Pechanga tribes may be digging in for a battle, but don’t expect CSIG to watch the fireworks without sending up a few smoke signals of their own against legislation.

In addition to excluding gaming companies who operated in the U.S. after Dec. 31, 2006, the new proposal also affords no license opportunities to racetracks. Each licensee would be permitted two poker sites after paying a $5 million fee that is good for 10 years and renewable.

The tribal-backed measure is intrastate only, calls for a 5% tax rate, strict player verification guidelines, problem gambling safeguards that include help to those who fall victim to addiction, and makes it illegal to patronize unregulated poker sites. All potential operators would launch at the same time, preventing possible early birds from effectuating a first to market advantage.

Following an online poker hearing in California in late April that saw 33 witnesses testify and was generally deemed as positive overall, many had optimistically believed that online poker legislation might be pushed through during this legislative session that runs through August. But it now appears that progress will continue to be stymied despite a large number of tribes landing on the same page.



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Charles Rettmuller

Charles has been an avid poker player for a number of years, both live and online. He holds a degree in journalism and previously worked as a reporter for a Chicago-based newspaper. Charles joined the PokerUpdate team in early 2012 and writes daily news articles for the site.