Five American Indian tribes are pressing forward on Internet poker legislation in California, hoping to overcome the political clout of what some characterize as an “obstructionist” coalition of tribes led by the Pechanga and Agua Caliente Indian bands.
The San Manuel and Morongo Mission Indians, the Rincon and Pala Luiseño Indians and the United Auburn Indian Community are aligned with Amaya/PokerStars and card rooms in a strong effort to get an online poker bill out of the 2015 session.
The horse racing industry and its organized labor is moving on a similar but parallel track, with all the stakeholders hoping to overcome political opposition from the Pechanga and Agua Caliente group.
“This is the biggest coalition yet behind Internet poker,” said Robyn Black of Eclipse Government Affairs, a lobby for the racing industry. If we get consumer groups you’re going to see the coalition grow. If it isn’t a success in 2015 it will be a force in 2016.”
A tribal leader from what has been dubbed the “coalition of the willing” said stakeholders hope to get a bill to a state Assembly floor vote shortly after legislators return from summer recess Aug. 17.
Meanwhile, the Pechanga/Agua Caliente coalition, which number as many as nine tribes with a strongly united core of at least four, remains opposed to licensing race tracks as poker website operators.
The coalition also accuses PokerStars of being a “bad actor” for accepting U.S. wagers after enactment in 2006 of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA).
The rival Indian groups have apparently dismissed any notion they can reach consensus on the two divisive issues, stalling tribal unity many Sacramento insiders believe is crucial in getting an Internet bill requiring a 2/3rds majority out of the state Legislature.
“I don’t think there will be any movement,” said Jeff Grubbe, chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. The Pechanga/Agua Caliente coalition, he said, is steadfast in its opposition to licensing tracks and “bad actors.”
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