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Five California Tribes Press for Legalized iPoker

Five California Tribes Press for Legalized iPoker

Despite what they describe as “obstructionist” efforts the stop them, five California tribes are doubling down on their efforts to bring a bill to legalize iPoker to a vote in the legislature this year—in fact, this month.

The tribes—San Manuel, Morongo Mission Indians, Rincon, Pala Luiseño Indians and the United Auburn Indian Community—who call themselves “the coalition of the willing,” have partnered with Amaya/PokerStars and several card rooms.

They are trying to face down a coalition led by the Pechanga and Agua Caliente bands, a total of nine tribes, who oppose participation by PokerStars as well as by the state’s racetracks.  They hope to force a vote before the August 17 summer recess.

The racetracks and their allies are progressing in pushing for their inclusion, claiming that they have enough political clout to keep a bill from being passed without them having a seat at the table. Robyn Black, a lobbyist for the racetrack industry, told Online Poker Report, “This is the biggest coalition yet behind internet poker. If we get consumer groups, you’re going to see the coalition grow. If it isn’t a success in 2015, it will be a force in 2016.”

Besides opposing racetrack participation, the Pechanga coalition wants to retain a “bad actor” clause that would prevent the participation by PokerStars, which ran afoul of the U.S. Justice Department several years ago when it allowed American residents to play on its offshore casino websites.

The two groups have apparently concluded that they can’t reach a compromise, so each is going to try to push through its own plan by brute force.

“I don’t think there will be any movement,” Jeff Grubbe, chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, told Online Poker Report. “No bill is better than a bad bill. We’re more than happy to not even have internet gaming. We’re fine with that.”

Some participants in the meetings between the two sides have called them “pointless.” According to lobbyist David Quintana, “Racetracks and PokerStars are insisting they be involved in this. If racetracks agreed to take a revenue share instead of a website license and if PokerStars stepped out of the picture, we would have had iPoker six months ago.”

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