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Indian Tribes Trying to Pass Online Poker Legislation in California

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According to a recent report from Capitol Weeky writer Malcolm Maclachlan, a consortium of California-based Indian tribes and card rooms are lobbying to offer online poker for state residents. Despite having the authority to run gaming venues in the state, Indian tribes have remained out of the internet poker foray.

Unfortunately for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the card clubs (including Commerce Club) they have aligned themselves with, they face stiff opposition from other tribes that have plenty of pull within the community. Morongo recently formed a limited liability corporation (LLC) called "California Tribal Intrastate Internet Poker Consortium, LLC" that will be used to spearhead this play for statewide internet poker.

According to a five-page draft of the bill, Californians are playing poker in record numbers and they are unprotected since there is no regulation within the industry. Citing the $4 billion in annual revenue that goes to numerous off-shore sites and the one million Californians that play online poker, the bill finds a loophole in the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 that states that "intrastate" internet gaming is allowed.

"Because of technology, you can identify your players. Right now, there are a lot of Californians playing internet poker, but without consumer protection," said Morongo Tribe spokesperson Patrick Dorinson.

Several groups have come out against the possible legislation including the California Tribal Business Alliance (CTBA) who believe that the way the bill is written could jeopardize tribal gaming within the state. According to CTBA Executive Director Allison Harvey, the Morongo-supported bill would breach an exclusivity clause within gaming pacts that let the tribes be the only ones to offer gaming throughout the state.

Tribal gaming watchdog Stand Up for California claims that this type of legislation moves away from the "poker is a skill game" argument by being vague enough to allow the consortium to have games such as Pai Gow.

When referring to a section at the end of the bill that slickly asks that "personal, networked, or server computers" don't fall under the state's computerized poker machine laws, group leader Cheryl Schmit says, "What they're trying to do here is fishy. They think by changing the definition, they're going to get around the legality of it. They can't."

Stay tuned, as we will keep you updated on all pending poker legislation. Be sure to follow us on Twitter here.

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