On Wednesday, the Sacramento Bee reported that the leaders of two influential California tribes – the Morongo Band and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians – had written letters to state Assemblyman Adam Gray expressing their concern over the speed with which Gray’s DFS bill is proceeding through the legislature.
Gray is the author of AB 1437, which seeks to regulate, license and tax DFS activity in the state. The Assembly approved the bill by a margin of 62-1 last month, with only Assemblyman Marc Levine expressing opposition. Levine has called on state Attorney General Kamala Harris to offer her opinion on the legality of DFS, but Harris has so far kept her cards close to her chest.
Morongo chairman Robert Martin’s letter to Gray echoed Levine’s doubts over the legality of DFS. Martin said the members of his tribe were “very concerned that a retroactive approval of a form of gaming that is otherwise illegal, simply because it is popular, is a very dangerous precedent.”
San Manuel chairwoman Lynn Valbuena’s letter to Gray noted that the rush to regulate DFS stood in stark contrast to the state’s glacial progress in addressing online poker legislation. The state’s various online poker bills have been poked and prodded every which way at numerous legislative hearings while Gray’s DFS bill has received “very little vetting or deliberation.”
Both tribes have aligned themselves with Amaya Gaming’s PokerStars brand to press legislators to approve online poker and their letters to Gray expressed the hope that online poker might ride AB1437’s coattails into “a single i-gaming measure.”
The tribes’ letters suggest AB1437 could have a comparatively rougher ride when it comes up for discussion in the state Senate. The tribes could push for a DFS regime that mimics the proposed online poker structure, in which DFS operators would need to partner with a local brick-and-mortar casino, a requirement that would further squeeze margins for the already profit-poor sites.
Other tribes, including the Pechanga-led coalition that has been among the major roadblocks to online poker legislative progress, have yet to publicly weigh in on the DFS issue, but it’s hard to believe that they don’t view DFS as an encroachment on their traditional control over gaming activity in the state.