Native Tribes Enter Battle For Legal Online Poker In California

According to recent reports out of California, local Native Indian Tribes have joined the initiative to support legal online poker in California. Up until this point, Native Indian Tribes have shown no interest in entering the fight to legalize online poker; albeit understandable as they control all of the land-based casinos in the state.

Just recently, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians formed a limited liability company termed “California Tribal Intrastate Internet Poker Consortium, LLC”, aligned with card clubs like the Commerce Club and others. The Consortium will spearhead the group’s movement to provide legal online poker to residents of California.

The current draft of the bill imposed to legalize and regulate online poker in the state comes equipped with research findings that show a record number of Californians are playing online poker without proper regulation, therefore limited assurance of security and protection. The bill claims to have found a “loophole” in the UIGEA that allows for “intrastate” Internet gaming.

If accepted, California stands to bring a wealthy fortune in licensing fees and taxation of Internet poker. The online poker industry is currently netting $4 billion annually. If the 1 million or more Californians who are sending their funds offshore to play unregulated online poker were to begin playing securely via intrastate online poker rooms, the revenue potential is unlimited.

As always in a worthy battle, the Morongo Band and supportive consortium members have met with great opposition, mostly from other Native Indian Tribes in the area. The California Tribal Business Alliance (CTBA) believes passage of the bill would endanger the state’s current tribal gaming status. According to the CTBA, the bill would breach a clause that grants tribes exclusive control of California gaming.

Stand Up for California, a tribal gaming watchdog, has states that such legislation would divert from the current argument that poker is a game of skill. The watchdog company believes the bill is too vague and would allow for other Internet games, such as Pai Gow, which cannot be compared to poker in regards to skill and strategy versus the element of luck.

Cheryl Schmit, group leader of Stand Up for California, commented on a portion of the bill, towards the very end, which referred to “personal, networked or server computers” not falling into the category of the state’s computerized poker machine laws. Schmit said “What they’re trying to do here is fishy. They think by changing the definition, they’re going to get around the legality of it. They can’t.”

At this point, it’s hard to pick a side. For California poker players, legal online poker in the state would be welcomed with open arms, but if opposing groups are correct in their speculation of undermining laws and breaching tribal clauses, it could backfire on the very tribes who fought to give it to those players. We’ll be sure to keep you updated as this story continues.

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