Wednesday September 30,2015 : CALIFORNIA RACETRACKS AND TRIBAL GROUPS STILL MILES APART ON ONLINE POKER.
Another legislative season has passed and still no legalization in California.
This month saw the close of another legislative session in California, still without a solution to the legalization of online poker for the seventh or eighth year running…and racetracks and some tribal groups apparently still miles apart on agreement, casting a shadow over future possibilities.
Aside from "bad actor" clauses designed to keep major competitors out of any legalised market, the chief bone of contention is the attempt by some tribal groups to exclude the racetracks…or at best throw them scraps in a business sense.
Leading the tribal coalition providing much of the opposition is the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, which recently sought to break the impasse with an offer that the racetracks could act as revenue-sharing affiliate marketers in a legalised market, driving customers to licensed online poker rooms operated by the tribes.
The suggestion has not gone down well with the Thoroughbred Owners of California, whose president Joe Morris told the publication Online Poker Report:
“We feel that Internet space is really our space. If anyone enters that space, we want a seat at the table. We’re the only legal entity in it now, conducting business. We’ve done so without any challenges for the last 14 or so years.”
Morris's claim has some justification – thanks to legislative carve-outs, the racing business has been approved to offer intrastate internet betting facilities since 2000.
Keith Blackpool, a spokesman for a group of racetrack owners, agreed with Morris, saying bluntly: “I appreciate the offer, but we don’t believe at this stage that a level playing field would be the other part of the gaming community having a license and determining what morsel of that we would receive.”
The Pechanga is backed in its exclusionary approach by the Agua Caliente and Viejas Indian tribes and six smaller tribal groups, but not all Californian tribal groups are as intractable; the Morongo, Pala, Rincon, San Manuel and United Auburn Indian Community along with other groups appear more open to the concept of fair competition.
Some tribal groups have allied themselves with cardrooms and Amaya in an alliance for an open market, and that would seem to present opportunities for some sort of deal with the influential racetrack lobby, without which a political solution looks unlikely. But the Pechanga alliance is also influential, and the political block remains.
Racing lobbyist Robyn Black summed up the situation by observing that racetrack support is important in any legalization moves, saying:
“There are tribes that realize if they want to be successful, that they should probably include us. Any discussion on Internet gaming has to include horse racing. It should not be exclusive to tribes. It should not be exclusive to card rooms.”