In a recent article on Pechanga.net, Dave Palermo took a look at the tribal groups that are lobbying for online poker legislation in the state. While some are willing to work towards an open marketplace, others only want iPoker in the state under strict controls.
The key issues remain the bad actor clause and the involvement of California horse racetracks. Depending on whom you ask, either can be considered the most important issue. One point that everyone can agree on is that some type of compromise needs to be made before legislation will move forward.
Pechanga Prefers to Block iPoker Rather than Racetracks or Bad Actors Participate
A coalition headlined by the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians is the group receiving the most attention in the online poker debate in California. The Pechanga Coalition strongly opposes involvement by both racetracks and bad actors, specifically PokerStars.
The coalition firmly opposes efforts by lawmakers and other tribes to eliminate the bad actor clause in California law. Two bills are currently under consideration in the California legislature and the coalition firmly opposes AB 167, a bill that does not include a bad actor clause and would allow racetracks to offer online poker.
Their stance is so strict that they are willing to let the issue die altogether. According to Agua Caliente Chairman Jeff Grubbs, “No i-poker is California is clearly the preferable option” over a bill that allows bad actors and racetracks to participate.
The official stance by the tribes is that they don’t think that PokerStars or other bad actors should benefit from taking bets post-UIGEA. The barring of racetracks they believe runs awry of limited gambling that the public supports.
In reality, most see this opposition as tactics to block competition from intrastate rivals and from other companies that would certainly outperform tribal sites.
Morongo and San Manuel Tribes Support an Open Market
The Morongo and San Manuel band of Mission Indians take a stance counter to the Pechanga Coalition. They believe that online poker should move forward with regulators making the decision of which operators are fit to offer services.
Both tribes along with the Bicycle Casino, Commerce Casino and Hawaiian Gardens casino have formed a partnership with PokerStars to serve as their online provider should iPoker become legal.
The tribes are obviously motivated to have a bad actor clause excluded due to this partnership but the tribe has also remained mum regarding racetrack involvement. Logically, it would be hard for them to block racetrack involvement when they are working towards a compromise on PokerStars’ involvement.
This group support AB 167 due to the lack of a bad actor clause and firmly oppose AB 9, a bill that includes both a bad actor clause and blocks racetracks.
Pala, United Auburn and Rincon More Concerned Over Racetrack Involvement
The third group eagerly awaiting movement on online poker legislation is a group comprised of the Pala and Rincon Band of Luisano Mission Indians and the United Auburn Indian Community.
Pala and United Auburn both partner with bwin.Party Digital Entertainment while Rincon is partnered with Caesars Entertainment. The Pala tribe also runs Pala Interactive, a company actually offering online gaming services in New Jersey.
Since the partners of these tribes do not face any issues regarding a bad actor clause, they remain relatively neutral on the issue. They are paying attention due to the potential of PokerStars involvement but they have not outright said they oppose or support a bad actor clause.
They believe that the bad actor clause is less important than racetrack involvement. While they do not oppose it, they do believe that a compromise will need to be reached due to political clout of the racetracks in the state.
This group is perhaps the most neutral because of their positioning. They will be able to offer services regardless of which version of a bill passes, so they can sit back and stay out of the way of the other two groups.