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California Online Poker Bill No Sure Bet

Efforts to license online poker continue in California but it remains to be seen if a law will emerge or if it will be “no deal,” the 2013 version. While the chairman of the Senate committee that oversees the gambling industry re-introduced 2012 legislation that would legalize online games earlier this year, a group of eight California Indian tribes released their own draft of a new bill to license and regulate online poker in California. Their version of the bill would qualify any existing licensed card room or tribal casino in California that has been in operation for at least five years prior for an online poker license.

The draft bill was created and written by leaders of eight tribes, including the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians near Temecula, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in the Coachella Valley, as well as members of a group called the California Tribal Business Alliance.

The eight tribes have invited other California tribes to provide their input “to continue to shape legislation that is pragmatic, achievable, and fair for tribes.” And they got a quick response. The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians near San Bernardino, and possibly others, have worked on a plan that could emerge as early as this week.

Only recently, California was expected to be the first state in the country to license intrastate poker and take advantage of a provision in the federal law that otherwise bans online gaming. However disagreements among the state’s gambling interests have repeatedly stymied the issue and allowed other states came forward; Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey have already legalized online poker and the first legal game debuted a few weeks ago in Nevada while many of the California residents already play on illegal sites based offshore in the Isle of Mann and elsewhere.

There are some main difference between The 51-page bill by state Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, who leads the Senate Governmental Organization Committee, and the draft bill of the 8 California Indian tribes. For example Sen. Wright´s bill requires a 30$ million license fee while the tribes´ bill require only 5$ million. Tribes´ bill issue licenses for 10 years is double the five years in the Wright bill.

In the past there had been other initiatives from other tribes like The Riverside-based California Online Poker Association included the San Manuel band and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians near Banning, as well as smaller tribes and some card clubs however they had disbanded pretty quickly.

They say that the latest tribal proposal is different because it emerged from talks involving tribal leaders. Consultants and lawyers were not in the room: “It is not unusual for tribal leaders to work together on issues of great importance — and let us be clear, this is an issue of great importance to us,” Said Leslie Loche, chairwoman of the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians, said in a statement Monday.

State Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, also has introduced a bill to legalize online poker however it seems like a temporary attempt at the moment. Despite the discussions and bills introduced so far, no hearings have been scheduled on it this year and the future of legal online poker still remains a mystery in California.

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