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Online Poker in California May Benefit from COPA Dissolution

Last week’s announcement that the California Online Poker Association (COPA) had voted to dissolve following the lack of success in securing online poker legislation may prove to benefit, rather than hinder, the state’s chances of passing such regulations.

Many people had speculated that the organization’s demise signaled an end to any possibilities that Indian tribes, racetracks and cardrooms could ever find common ground on a poker-only bill proposed by Senators Rod Wright and Darrell Steinberg. But the opposite may actually be true, as COPA members were adamant about excluding racetracks from the mix of online poker site operators.

“COPA was vigorously fighting against allowing other non-member entities from being able to operate gaming sites in the state,” said Harsh Parikh, a California-based gaming attorney with Snell & Wilmer L.L.P. “Thus, the COPA dissolution may potentially broaden the eligible licensing base.”

COPA consisted of 29 cardrooms and 31 Indian tribes that formed a coalition a couple of years ago and attempted to lobby for regulated online poker in the Golden State. The organization’s operating agreement specified that dissolution was an option if online poker had not been approved by January, 2013. Two of the group’s largest tribal membersthe San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians and the Morongo Band of Mission Indiansdeparted the organization late last week. The remaining members then voted in favor of disbanding.

There had also been rumors floating around that tribes in California were against the Reid-Kyl federal online poker bill that has been much-publicized and may possibly be introduced in the lame-duck session of Congress following the November elections. There was talk of Indian gaming interests in the state using their leverage to opt-out of any federal proposal. The reasoning behind that assumption is that the country’s most populous state would be better off with their own poker bill and would not benefit from joining an interstate model with the rest of the U.S. But Parikh put those rumors to rest.

“Any movement on the federal level will likely help a forthcoming bill in California next year,” Parikh told PokerUpdate exclusively. “California would likely opt-in to the Reid-Kyl bill, as it would present a way for the state to obtain much-needed revenues without bearing the burden of implementing an intrastate poker licensing scheme.”




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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.