California’s often disharmonious approach to regulating online poker struck a somewhat more on-key note this week after two tribal coalitions reached consensus on a number of legislative sticking points. Tribal lobbyist Jerome Encinas told Gambling Compliance that coalitions led by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians and the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians were “moving forward on a united front” following a four-hour meeting in San Diego on Thursday.
Among the sticking points resolved at Thursday’s meeting was a decision to restrict each online poker licensee to a maximum of two branded websites. An anonymous tribal official described the number of skins per license as being “the elephant in the room for several meetings now,” but with that beast now de-tusked, the parties were ready to finalize unified language to harmonize the two competing online poker bills currently before the legislature.
The tribes reportedly also reached consensus on their desire to exclude California’s horseracing tracks from eligibility for online poker licensing. While the state’s financially struggling racetracks are keen to add a fresh revenue stream, they lost their biggest legislative champion when state Sen. Rod Wright was convicted of perjury earlier this year. Tellingly, the elected officials who presided over the state Assembly online poker hearing in April asked zero questions of the racing representatives who testified.
The state’s poker card clubs and some other tribes will prove less easy to discount. The Pechanga/San Manuel coalitions stridently oppose the presence in California of any ‘bad actors’ – online poker companies that dealt with US players post-passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006 – but the influential Morongo Band of Mission Indians and three of California’s largest card clubs struck a deal with online poker giant PokerStars in April and will fight like hell to ensure that whatever legislation California passes doesn’t automatically exclude Stars.
Meanwhile, a California political heavyweight who once lobbied for online poker on behalf of the Morongo tribe now says online poker is the source of all that’s evil in the world. Yes, former Assembly Speaker and San Francisco mayor Willie Brown (pictured) has seen the light – and/or a bag of cash left on his doorstep by Las Vegas Sands boss Sheldon Adelson – that convinced him to sign on as the California chair and national co-chair of Adelson’s Coalition to Stop internet Gambling (CSIG). Brown says he changed his opinion on online poker after he “learned about some of the tactics used by online gambling companies to lure young people.” Just like the rest of us have learned about some of the tactics used by casino billionaires to buy/rent the opinion of former politicians.