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21 CALIFORNIAN TRIBES COMBINING ON INTERNET POKER DRIVE
But pigs could fly and hell freeze over before the California Tribal Business Alliance will support it.
The Morongo Band of Mission Indians still appears intent on cornering the internet poker market in California, and has been joined by another 21 tribes in a consortium designed to claim exclusive rights to intrastate online poker.
This is not the first time that the Morongo have come to notice in regard to online poker; in an earlier attempt at exclusivity the tribe joined with Californian commercial card rooms in a bid for the market, should it be legalised in the state.
And the Morongo have opposed Congressional attempts to federally legalise and control online gambling, which it appears to feel is a threat to its aspirations.
This week the spokesman for the Band, Patrick Dorinson, announced that the Morongo had been joined by 21 other tribes in signing a new online poker consortium.
“We have 21 tribes at this point,” said Dorinson. “We anticipate by the end of the day we will have quite a few more.” He added that some of the tribes involved had “substantial gaming [interests] in the state.”
The consortium is titled the California Intertribal Intrastate Poker Consortium, which will be one of two LLCs that will be members of the California Online Poker Association (COPA), reports the Capitol Weekly newspaper.
The success of the COPA initiative will primarily depend on whether the California Legislature approves the legalisation and regulation of intrastate online poker, an issue that has been under debate in various forms for the past three years.
Former Assemblyman Lloyd Levine unsuccessfully pushed for legalisation in 2008 (see previous InfoPowa reports), and the latest initiative, by Senator Rod Wright, is currently on the back burner.
In March this year Wright, a Democrat from Los Angeles, put forward an Internet poker bill. The move raised hopes in the industry because Wright chairs of the powerful Senate Governmental Organization Committee, which plays a key role in regulating gaming in the state.
However, Wright’s bill SB 1485 stalled, and at the end of June this year he cancelled a hearing of the bill in front of his own committee. It hasn’t moved since.
The Capitol Weekly observed this week: “While estimates vary, it is widely agreed that hundreds of thousands of Californians play poker via illegal offshore websites, to the tune of $1 billion a year or more.”
The Morongo have apparently been negotiating with Wright on the state bill. According to Dorinson, the tribe is still engaged in “ongoing talks” with Wright’s staff in the hope that it will occupy a pole position in the California stakes if legalisation comes about.
However, the Morongo could face some serious opposition from the California Tribal Business Alliance. This week a lobbyist for the organisation, David Qunitana, told The Capitol Weekly that the CTBA opposed any online poker deal that would turn over an exclusive franchise to any one group, saying it would violate existing deals the state has with casino gaming tribes.
“It is a concept that will never happen, unless you believe that the Legislature will gladly hand a multi-billion dollar monopoly to a self-selected group over similarly situated entities,” Quintana said.
“Assuming pigs flew and hell froze over, and it did happen, any similarly situated entity would have to be allowed to participate. It’s called the Constitution.”
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