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California Tribal Alliance Opposes PokerStars

A tribal group in California representing three of the state’s native Indian tribes has voiced its opposition toward allowing PokerStars to be part of any new online poker legislation.

The California Tribal Business Alliance (CTBA), whose members include the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians, the Pala Band of Luiseño Indians, and the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, “will strongly oppose any legislation which allows PokerStars to participate,” said CTBA chairman Leslie Lohse.

That opposition comes on the heels of reports last week indicating that PokerStars has been negotiating a partnership with three California card clubs and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians in order to offer Internet poker in the state. Those discussions come at a time when two bills to regulate online poker have been introduced to the state legislature.

Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) is the sponsor of one of the bills, SB 1366, that has the support of the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians and the United Auburn Indian Community. Correa was named to head the Senate Governmental Organization Committee following the resignation of former chairman Senator Rod Wright, who stepped down after being found guilty of eight felony counts related to residing outside of the district he was elected to represent.

The second bill was introduced by Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) and also has tribal support from influential native tribes. The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuila Indians and the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians are behind AB 2291. Both proposals do not include the state’s racetracks in the online poker winner’s circle, which differs from past measures offered by Wright that failed to advance.

Lohse and the CTBA are of the mind that applicants for licensure in the state’s online poker scheme be of the highest standard, PR Newswire reported. PokerStars has been lambasted for continuing to operate in the U.S. market following enactment of the UIGEA in 2006 until the Black Friday shutdown forced them to pull out in 2011.

PokerStars, under parent company Rational Group, bailed out thousands of players by purchasing Full Tilt Poker and reimbursing players who may have had no other recourse had the online poker giant not stepped in. While rest-of-world players were made whole in November, 2012 following the site’s relaunch, $76 million was paid to former U.S. Full Tilt players last month on Green Friday, with further stages and payouts in the remission process yet to come.

Keep in mind that PokerStars admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement with the DoJ, which Lohse rightfully acknowledged despite voicing opposition. California tribes have failed to find common ground on the Internet poker legislation issue for several years, throwing a wrench in the entire process. The latest salvo fired by Lohse continues the discord.

An estimated 1 million Californians are online poker players, a number that makes state officials salivate at the potential revenue opportunities. Yet that revenue continues to go to unregulated sites while California tribes fail to find solidarity on the matter.



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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.