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California Bill Legalizing Online Poker Gains Further Support

06/20/2016

Opponents Look to be Outgunned

More and more, 2016 is looking to be the year that California legalizes online poker. As the bill that would detail its regulation, AB 2863, continues to be amended, it has roped in many tribes that had once been part of the opposition.

There are several main coalitions that are key actors in this bill’s evolution and passage: the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. These coalitions conditionally oppose the legalization of online poker in California.

The Agua Caliente Chairman, Jeff Grubbe, stated to the relevant Appropriations Committee that the group had supported older versions of the bill. The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians’ Chairman, Mark Macarro, also claimed his tribe doesn’t seek to stop the bill from going through. Instead, they are intent on “shaping good public policy that will protect our rights now and for the decades to come,” he stated to Online Poker Report.

Both tribes currently oppose AB 2863, and managed to delay a recent vote on the bill that would have taken place last Wednesday. Said version of the bill would have watered down the its “bad actor” clause. In previous drafts, the “bad actor” clause prohibited companies that had operated online poker rooms illegally after the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006. The current draft (yet to see a vote) would have moved that date up to 2011. This is notable because the world’s largest and most profitable online poker company, PokerStars, did business in the United States illegally before its indictment in that year. PokerStars has since changed ownership and seeks to re enter the markets it was forced out of.

However, as opponents of AB 2863, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians are shrinking. The coalition used to be comprised of seven different tribes. After the June 7 amendment, the Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Indians wrote a letter praising the bill. This signified a secession from the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, and brought the total number of AB 2863’s opponents to six.

Now, the coalitions supporting AB 2863 include unions and horse racetracks, as well as the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, which represents 33 tribes and 21 casino owners. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians are unlikely to be appeased by any except for the most drastic changes in the bill.

The bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Adam Gray, stated “through good faith discussions with all stakeholders, I believe we are closer than ever to passing an iPoker bill.”

 
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