California Coalitions Battle Over Path For Online Poker

California Online Poker Conflict Continues As AB 431 Moves To Appropriations

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While recent legislative progress for Assemblyman Adam Gray’s AB431 provided some room for optimism, key industry stakeholders appear still deeply divided over the path forward for online poker in California.

That’s after opposing coalitions issued letters to the Assembly Appropriations Committee regarding AB 431, which is scheduled for a vote in the committee tomorrow (May 27).

OPR has acquired copies of both letters, which were first reported by Chris Krafcik at GamblingCompliance. Their content is reproduced below.

You can track AB 431 here.

Letter from coalition opposing AB 431’s passage through Appropriations Committee

Dear Chairman Gomez:

Our tribal governments write to oppose moving AB 431 (Gray) out of Appropriations Committee at this time.

Some of our tribal governments moved to “neutral” or “no position” before the bill was heard in the Assembly G.O. Committee on April 27 out of respect for Chairman Gray’s leadership and the prior assurance that consensus would be sought before moving forward. Continuing to pass this measure as a spot bill does not advance a state regulatory structure for iPoker. The issues that divide stakeholders remain unresolved. Moving the bill at this time would be directly counterproductive to any internet poker effort, which we know is not the goal of the author, who has told us he desires to be the neutral party bringing stakeholders together on this issue, if indeed that is possible.

Legalization of iPoker is a significant public policy consideration with long-term implications for the State of California, its citizens, and our tribal governments. Although stakeholders have made progress in building consensus on some issues, important disagreements remain, including eligibility for licensure and suitability standards that instill public trust and confidence in the integrity of the licensees.

While we appreciate the author’s desire to move this legislation forward to meet deadlines, we note that a comprehensive iPoker bill would have significant fiscal impacts and impose new taxes that would be subject to a two-thirds vote requirement. Thus, the bill can accommodate an urgency clause so that committee deadlines would not apply. Chairman Gray will always have the ability to bring forward a bill with that urgency clause, to try to put together a final deal. For these reasons, we urge you to keep this vehicle in your committee.

Signed by:

  • Jeff Grubbe, Tribal Chairman Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians
  • Mark Macarro, Tribal Chairman Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians
  • Clifford LaChappa, Tribal Chairman Barona Band of Mission Indians
  • Cody J Martinez, Tribal Chairman Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Indians
  • Margie Mejia, Tribal Chairwoman Lytton Band of Pomo Indians
  • Leann Walker Grant, Tribal Chairperson Table Mountain Rancheria
  • Leland Kinter, Tribal Chairperson Tribal Chairman Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation
  • Sherry Treppa, Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake
  • Robert Welch, Tribal Chairman Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians

Letter from coalition supporting AB 431’s passage through Appropriations Committee

Dear Assembly Member Gomez:

Our coalition, which includes the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, California’s three largest card clubs –Commerce Casino, Hawaiian Gardens Casino and Bicycle Casino – and Amaya Inc. which owns and operates PokerStars, supports passage of AB 431 out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee on May 27.

We strongly support authorizing online poker in California and commit to what we understand will be a deliberative process to develop, and ultimately approve, a bill in 2015 to authorize iPoker and establish a safe California market.

We know that finalizing the policy that will ultimately regulate California’s online poker marketplace will not be quick, nor will it be easy. The stagnation of the last six years has made that obvious. But so far 2015 has been different. Hard lines and tough talk have morphed into open minds and dialogue.

Authorizing online poker will be good for millions of consumers and poker players who will benefit from a safe, regulated, commercial gaming environment where they are protected. Every year that California fails to act not only puts consumers at risk while playing online games from offshore localities that provide few protections and regulations, but our state also loses out on collecting hundreds of millions of dollars that can be used for essential programs like public schools, public safety, healthcare and social services.

Our coalition is committed to putting in the hours and the time necessary to establish a vibrant, competitive marketplace, one that provides superior consumer protections, requires strict oversight and regulation of licensees, and service providers, and ensures that the state receives a reasonable return.

Signed by:

  • Robert Martin, Chairman Morongo Band of Mission Indians
  • Lynn R. Valbuena, Chairwoman San Manuel Band of Mission Indians
  • Haig Papaian, Commerce Casino
  • Ron Sarabi, Hawaiian Gardens Casino
  • Hashem Minaiy, Bicycle Casino
  • Steve Kraut, PokerStars

View letter in support, letter in opposition.

- Chris is the publisher of Grove also serves as a consultant to various stakeholders in the regulated market for online gambling in the United States.
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