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California Tribes’ Online Poker Bill To Deliver Internet Poker To The Golden State?

May 30, 2014
California

In December of 2011, when the United States Department of Justice decided to allow Internet poker and casino gambling if regulated at the state level, California poker players were excited. The state has one of the oldest and richest poker playing histories in the United States, and a reputation for supporting physical poker rooms. So it appears still a mystery at this point in 2014 that legal online poker is not a reality in California. While there are legitimate and legal offshore poker rooms which deliver legal virtual card playing options, the cash poor state of California could certainly benefit from owning the largest poker player pool in the United States.

In Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada, state regulated Internet gambling has been legalized. Those states are benefiting from revenue generated by licensing fees and taxes, and the cyber gambling operations are run through physical casinos. This keeps any cannibalization from occurring, and hopefully an upcoming proposal offered by powerful California Indian tribes to be delivered next week will get Internet poker rolling in the Golden State. What has held back the arrival of online poker in California has largely been the inability for Republican and Democratic legislators to agree with each other, while also appeasing the state-recognized tribal Indians in that state which run physical casinos and poker rooms.

The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians are two of the largest tribal gambling lobbyists in California. They met again this week to hammer out the details and specifics of a proposal which would make Internet poker a reality. According to a source close to both of those tribes, the actual wording of the proposal is now about “99.9% complete.” The next step takes place next week when the Internet gaming proposal is handed off to California lawmakers.

Jerome Encinas is a tribal lobbyist in that state, and he recently told eGaming Review that the last meeting held to complete the final details of the proposal went well. He went on to state that both the Pechanga and San Manuel Indians involved in the poker bill are currently setting up meetings with California legislators. Only one possible hurdle could keep things from going quickly and smoothly at this point.

The Morongo Band of Mission Indians has already reached a partnership with PokerStars and three of the state’s largest card rooms. If “bad actor” language is present in this new proposal, and rumors say that it may be there, do not expect Morongo to go away quietly. Bad actor clauses exist in certain contracts to keep previously indicted corporations out of any agreement. PokerStars was one of the three US poker rooms shut down by the Department of Justice on Black Friday in April of 2011. That would disqualify PokerStars, and thus Morongo, from participating in any Internet gambling proposal which passes. California’s 2014 legislative session runs through August, giving that state a real possibility for Internet poker this year.