Thursday February 12,2015 : TRIBAL UNITY URGED IN CALIFORNIA
California Nations Indian Gaming Association chair warns against lack of consensus on legalised online poker.
The focus on legalised online poker in California was very obvious in the first days of the 20th Western Indian Gaming Conference currently taking place in Sacramento, with the chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, Daniel Tucker, calling for tribal unity on the issue – something that has been notably lacking as individual tribes have continued to pursue their individual goals.
Repeated annual attempts to legalise online poker in California have failed, in part because of a lack of tribal consensus on legalization, a shortcoming that various groups have been trying to resolve as two legalization measures have already been introduced to the current session of the state legislature
One of the most powerful coalitions pressing for legalised online poker without "bad actor" clauses is that of the Morongo and San Manuel tribal groups, which have allied themselves with three major Californian card rooms and the most globally successful poker operator, Pokerstars.
The coalition is backing a bill introduced by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer which would permit tribes, card clubs, race tracks to participate in a regulated market, along with major groups like Pokerstars.
On the other hand, the Pechanga tribal group supports the other measure, introduced by Assemblymen Mike Gatto and more restrictive, including a "bad actor" clause.
Taking a more conciliatory line than has been the case in the past, Bo Mazzetti, chairman of the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, said compromise is necessary to get a bill passed, because it needs a two-thirds legislative majority.
Morongo chairman Robert Martin agreed, and said there has to be some compromise if the divide between the tribes is to be overcome.
Rincon Band legal representative, Stephen Hart, opined that the Gatto and Jones-Sawyer bills had many similarities, with the chief bone of contention the inclusion of a "bad actor" clause in the Gatto proposal.
Hart said the need for a legalised solution in California was now more urgent due to federal political moves to reimpose the restrictive Restoration of the American Wire Act by Utah and South Carolina politicians in the US Congress.
The Morongo legal representative, George Forman, suggested that ways might be found to exclude genuinely “bad actors” from the market without necessarily prejudicing the chances of a major and honest company like Pokerstars.
He drew attention to the change of ownership at the Pokerstars parent group, and the subsequent departure of individuals whose conduct may have been called into question by some parties, remarking that in fact Pokerstars had never admitted wrongdoing in subsequent settlements, or been criminally convicted by the judicial authorities.