On June 3rd the first tribal iGaming conference kicks off at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in California- Indian Country Online: The 2013 Congress. With a tagline of, “No tribe left behind” the main purpose of the event is to teach tribes about the opportunities that the online gambling industry will create for them.
Victor Rocha of Pechanga.net, a well known figure in the tribal gaming industry, has taken a large part in organizing the event, promoting the event and putting together the sessions. CalvinAyre.com caught up with Rocha to learn more about what role the tribes play in the American gambling industry and what Indian Country Online has to offer.
Becky Liggero: The tribes are very important to the gambling industry in the USA and that there are a lot of industry events scheduled year round for this group. Why did you decide to add an online gambling focused event to the list?
Victor Rocha: In business as in music, timing is everything. When we created Indian Country Online: The 2013 Congress, we expected some movement with online gaming in California. But with two bills in the legislature, and another bill being discussed among tribes, this issue is urgent now. Add the intertribal cooperation that didn’t exist last year, and even the card clubs would agree: there’s never been a better time for online gaming in California. And we’re right in the middle of it.
BL: Indeed you are. What are some of the biggest challenges that tribes face when it comes to the online gaming industry in the US?
VR: Tribes are challenged on the federal level with ensuring that those Members of Congress unfamiliar with tribes recognize the scope and influence of the tribal gaming industry, in terms of their percentage of the overall industry and their off-reservation economic impacts. Combined with the political sophistication of the tribal lobby, a federal bill will not get done without us. On the state side, tribes must deal with individual states’ willingness to engage in Internet gaming on any level – something many states are still coming to terms with at this point.
BL: What kinds of opportunities are there for tribes to work together in online gaming?
VR: First, tribes can participate in the work of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) to shape national legislation. Second, they can begin thinking about intra- and interstate cooperatives, as commercial casinos are doing. Finally, even if tribes decide against online gaming, this burgeoning industry will create opportunities for them. They should think about using their gaming expertise to launch related businesses, and this conference will help them.
BL: Tell me about the conference venue, Pechanga Resort & Casino.
VR: As a tribal member, I may be a little biased, but I think Pechanga has the nicest casino resort in California. With 200,000+ square feet of gaming space, an AAA-rated 4-diamond hotel, a spectacular golf course, and San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles only an hour+ away, Pechanga is a great business and leisure destination.
BL: Sounds like a perfect venue for this conference. Who are some of the key speakers participating in the sessions?
VR: First and foremost, I have Pechanga Chairman Mark Macarro and the support of the Pechanga tribe behind me. I’m excited to have Joseph Colebut of Foxwoods and Kip Ritchie of the Forest County Potawatomi, two highly respected tribal entrepreneurs who are making things happen. Amaya’s David Baazov will discuss the fundamentals of getting online, and the always engaging James Maida of GLI will deliver the luncheon keynote. In short, I’ve invited some of the most knowledgeable people in the industry to speak at this conference.
BL: What a great lineup, Victor. Is there anything else you want to add?
VR: I feel there’s a high probability of a California iPoker bill passing this legislative session. Even if it doesn’t, the ball is that much closer to the goal line. Every year has seen incremental progress, so if it doesn’t pass this year, I give it an 80% chance next year. That’s an opportunity tribes won’t want to pass up, and it’s the impetus behind Indian Country Online: The 2013 Congress.