A dozen politically powerful American Indian tribes are not likely to reach the consensus needed to move an online poker bill in the 2017 California legislative session, tribal officials said this week.
A tribal/card room coalition with Amaya/PokerStars plans to again introduce legislation to legalize California online poker, Robert Martin, chairman of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, told Online Poker Report Wednesday. But Martin, whose tribe is business partners with PokerStars, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and three Los Angeles area card rooms, is not optimistic other tribal governments will agree on bill language that will grant PokerStars vendor license suitability.
Political insiders believe consensus among a dozen of California’s more lucrative casino tribes is essential in enacting a bill requiring two-thirds approval of the state Assembly and Senate. But tribal leaders contend unanimous agreement on bill language is not likely. “I really wish we could have consensus but I just don’t see it happening,” Martin said.
“We’ve been at it nine years now and we’re not that much closer,” he said of efforts to get legislation in what is likely the nation’s most lucrative online poker market. Steve Stallings, chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA), a group of some 33 tribes, agrees online poker doesn’t stand much of a chance in the 2017 session, if ever. “I don’t really see any prospects for anything happening,” Stallings said.
The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians head a coalition of about eight tribes seeking strict “bad actor” language in licensing PokerStars, accused of taking US wagers in violation of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006. Former Amaya Chairman David Baazov, under indictment for activities surrounding Amaya’s acquisition of PokerStars, remains a major shareholder and has tendered an offer to buy the company, the target of several regulatory issues.
“What we know for certain is that Poker Stars/Amaya is even more of a sewer swamp than we originally thought, hence the need to keep strong on bad actor language,” Pechanga Chairman Mark Macarro said. “The biggest problem with the other tribes is PokerStars,” Martin acknowledges. But Morongo, San Manuel and the Hawaiian Gardens, Commerce Club and Bicycle Club are standing firm with their overseas business partner.
Several California tribes are willing to accept PokerStars into a statewide industry, the chairman said. “With Agua Caliente, Pechanga, Barona (Band of Mission Indians), we don’t seem to agree a lot,” Martin said.
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