6/12/10 – The Cabazon Band of Mission Indians may be preparing the way for a sortie into the online poker sector, worth billions in revenues from keen Californian poker players, reports The Desert Sun newspaper.
The Fantasy Springs Resort Casino owned by the tribe has apparently been promoting a new “Free Video Poker” on its website, which links to the VideoPoker.com website, an operation operated by Action Gaming. As of Friday, the site claimed 190,462 members.
VideoPoker.com offers monthly subscription rates of $5.95 monthly and games offering prizes.
Approached by The Desert Sun, Katie Reil, a spokesperson for slot maker IGT, the exclusive distributor of Action Gaming technology, said: “It's 12,000 percent legal – all approved. There is no online gaming. It's all play for fun.”
Gaming industry observer William Thompson, a professor of public administration at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said the video poker sites put up by Fantasy Springs appear to be advertising, which is permitted in the United States.
Cheryl Schmit, director of Stand Up for California, a statewide watchdog organisation on the gambling industry, said the site looks like a marketing tool to get players to learn the ropes of the game and come into the casino.
“Offering something that keeps score is different than turning in your credit card to play against the house,” she said. “But you can say that socially, it begins to educate people to play online or entice them to, so in the event it becomes legal, you'd have more people playing online.”
It also could be a strategy by tribes interested in entering Internet poker to demonstrate consumer demand and expertise in the field, Schmit said.
The Desert Sun article goes on to report on the various initiatives currently running in California regarding the possible legalization of intrastate online poker.
The latest of these is state Senate Bill 1485 authored by State Sen. Rod Wright and introduced two weeks ago, with a possible hearing scheduled for June 22. The bill proposes that the state's Department of Justice award up to three licenses/contracts to California-based “hub” operators to run an intrastate Internet poker site exclusively for Californians.