BAD NEWS FOR CALIFORNIA ONLINE POKER AS TRIBAL OPPOSITION SOLIDIFIES (Update)
Pechanga tribe and its allies digging their heels in over "bad actor" issue.
Despite the patient efforts of Assemblyman Adam Gray in trying to broker a difficult compromise among interested parties in the California online poker legalization issue the future of his bill AB 2863 appears to be in peril again following statements by a powerful tribal allowance Friday expressing continued opposition.
The sticking points for the tribe appear to the "bad actor" issue that has plagued legalization in the state for the past decade, along with reservations regarding the proposed tax structures.
In a letter to Assemblyman Gray Friday, a tribal coalition led by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians and Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and including the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, Barona Band of Mission Indians, Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation and Lytton Rancheria, applauded his efforts to reach a consensus and acknowledged some progress, but noted its continued concerns and opposition to "suitability standards and taxation".
The coalition was responding to the recent release of more amendments to AB2863 as Gray continues to try to get the multitude of vested interests on the same page.
Over the years the Pechanga coalition has particularly objected to any deviations from "bad actor" clauses, which might allow major companies like Pokerstars into the California legalised online poker market.
Pokerstars, on the other hand, has applauded the most recent amendments, one of which included a convenient cut-off date of December 2011 on bad actor activity
Pokerstars is in a powerful alliance with the San Manuel and Morongo Indian bands, and state cardrooms Hawaiian Gardens, Bicycle Club and Commerce Club. However, this coalition also has suggested a more lenient tax regime based on a sliding scale of GGR.
The chairman of the Pechanga, Mark Macarro has vigorously denied suggestions that his coalition is being unreasonably obstructionist, claiming that the tribes have made concessions and expects some reciprocity from the other side.
“If we wanted to stop iPoker we would not be dedicating the time, energy, and resources to shaping good public policy that will protect our rights now and for the decades to come," he said this week in the coalition statement, accusing "offshore poker sites" of evading “the payment of tens of millions of dollars in California taxes while breaking the law by taking bets from California and the U.S.”
The Pechanga statement shows that the coalition has a major problem with the argument that December 2011 (which is also the date of the Department of Justices revised policy on the Wire Act conceding that it applied only to online sports betting) is an appropriate date to excuse alleged previous illegal conduct.
The coalition points out that December 2011 is 5 years after the implementation of the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, and eight months after Black Friday in April 2011, when the FBI shuttered allegedly illegal online poker sites serving US players.
“In our view, using such a recent date grants a free pass to the most egregious foreign offenders that continued accepting online U.S. bets illegally from offshore tax havens,” the statement declares.
The next chapter in this evolving story will be a meeting on Monday between the tribes and Assemblyman Gray, followed by another Assembly Appropriations Committee hearing next Wednesday…but there appears to be little evidence of further compromise so far.