Hopes that online poker regulation would pass in California in 2015 are now diminished, as the divide between Indian tribes, racetracks, and PokerStars continues to get worse.
A radio ad campaign paid for by the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians and republished by the Online Poker Report strongly requests that California citizens fight against the inclusion of "corrupt companies like PokerStars" in online poker legislation. The advertisement includes strong language against PokerStars, referring to the online gaming company as "scam artists and conmen."
The ad also mentions that "PokerStars recently had its parent company headquarters raided as part of an investigation into violation of security laws, but this hasn't stopped PokerStars from lobbying our state legislature to allow them to participate in online poker here in California."
What many experts agree upon, is this is solely about the money, as PokerStars has dominated most ring-fenced markets it is licensed in, including Spain and Italy. After all, it is projected that online poker revenues could exceed $300 million annually, which is a big pie, but it also means there is plenty of money on the table to fight over.
This isn't the first time Indian tribes have publicly fought against allowing PokerStars into the California online poker market as part of any bill that is passed. In March, nine tribes authorized a letter to stall progress on a current bill introduced by California Assemblyman Adam Gray, which would allow PokerStars and racetracks to be included in the state's online gaming marketplace. According to PokerIndustryPro, Tribes that signed the letter include the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians.
"The issues that divide stakeholders remain unresolved," the letter claims. "Moving the bill at this time would be directly counterproductive to any Internet poker effort, which we know is not the goal of the author, who has told us he desires to be the neutral party bringing stakeholders together on this issue, if indeed that is possible."
While many prominent Indian tribes are fighting against the inclusion of PokerStars in any regulated online gaming framework, there are other tribes that believe that cooperation is the most productive path to take. The Morongo Band of Mission Indians, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, the Commerce Casino, Hawaiian Gardens Casino and Bicycle Casino recently sent a letter to Assembly Member Jimmy Gomez to pass an online gaming bill which includes PokerStars as soon as possible through the state's Appropriations Committee. Amaya Gaming, the parent company of PokerStars, was also included in this letter.
"Hard lines and tough talk have morphed into open minds and dialogue," the letter states. "Authorizing online poker will be good for millions of consumers and poker players who will benefit from a safe, regulated, commercial gaming environment where they are protected."
Despite the divide, the California Assembly Appropriations Committee passed the bill by a unanimous 14-0 margin in late April, which could be the main catalyst to the fight being brought to the public with the radio ad campaign. Unfortunately, this does not mean that a bill is close to passing, as it was considered to be mostly a procedural move, since the bill needed to advance by May 1 to stay alive for the year. The proposed legislation remains, for the most, part ambiguous with its language potentially to become more robust at a later date.
We shouldn't have to wait long to see whether California is ready to pass online poker regulation. Up next is are two upcoming hearings in the Assembly dealing with online poker. The first hearing, "The Legality of Internet Poker–How Prepared is California to Regulate It?" takes place on June 24 followed by another hearing on July 8.
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