The California Online Poker Association (COPA) has dissolved following the exit from the group of two of its largest Indian tribes, prompting the 29 cardrooms and 31 tribes who had banded together two years ago to push for online poker legislation to go their own way.
The San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians were the first to depart the association, followed abruptly by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. A ballot was then taken by the COPA board, which found the most influential members voting to dissolve.
COPA’s spokesperson, Ryan Hightower, sent PokerUpdate a Dissolution Statement, which read in part: “The California Online Poker Association’s Board of Managers has announced it is dissolving the association. The decision was based upon insufficient progress within the legislature toward the passage of an online poker bill.”
Upon the creation of COPA, members had agreed that the association might possibly be disbanded if the Golden State had not enacted Internet poker legislation by Jan. 2, 2013. But the latest legislative session concluded Aug. 31 without online poker regulations being approved, most notably due to in-fighting among the state’s gaming interests of cardrooms, racetracks and native tribes.
A poker-only proposal by Senators Rod Wright and Darrell Steinberg was subjected to a number of amendments and modifications in an attempt to appease all the parties who were set to benefit from the legislation. However, many tribal groups were adamant about excluding horse-racing interests, which did not sit well with Wright, whose district includes a racetrack. Thus, the online poker bill failed in the 2012 legislative session.
COPA runs Calshark.com, a free-play online poker site powered by Playtech, and was hoping to make the transition to real-money play following the legalization of online poker. Now that the group has dissolved, the status of Calshark.com remains uncertain. The San Manuel and Morongo tribes were responsible for much of the funding of the Internet poker site, which was believed to have cost $1 million, according to eGaming Review. COPA’s website apart from poker has since been taken down.
It is not clear what Morongo, San Manuel and the other former COPA members will do now. However, Sen. Wright has stated that he will try again in January’s legislative session to gather support and approval for online poker in the most populated state in the U.S.