Tuesday May 15, 2012 : POLITICIANS DOING WELL OUT OF ONLINE GAMBLING ISSUES
Major Californian newspaper examines donations
The LA Times carried an interesting article on political action committee and lobbying donations this week, focusing on attempts to influence and support the legalization of online poker in California.
One of the main runners in the legalization race is SB 1463, a measure introducted by Senate leader Darrell Steinberg and Sen. Rod Wright that seeks to allow nearly 150 card clubs, Indian casinos and horse-racing tracks that operate in California to apply for 10-year licenses to run gambling websites open only to state residents.
The businesses would each have to put up a $30-million advance for any online poker website, and after two years, the state could legalise other games for Internet wagering.
Steinberg, a Democrat from Sacramento, has claimed that the proposal could raise at least $200 million for the state in the budget year that begins in July.
The LA Times reveals that in the last year, land casino operators have poured $1.36 million into the Democratic State Central Committee of California, which Steinberg will rely on for his campaign to increase his party's control of the Legislature in this year's elections.
"In the two years since Wright first proposed legalization, the six largest operators in the online poker association have spent $7.7 million on political contributions, gifts to officials and lobbying in Sacramento." the newspaper reports.
"The group includes Hollywood Park Casino, in Wright's district. Fifteen Indian tribes that own casinos, including the Morongo and San Manuel bands of Mission Indians, are also members."
Sen. Wright, who is chairman of the Senate committee that oversees gambling, has received 85 contributions totaling $170,000 from gambling interests since he ran for election in 2008, the newspaper claims.
"In addition, four casinos that founded the online poker association have anted up $11,500 for a legal defense fund for Wright in his ongoing battle against criminal charges of voter fraud and perjury. Los Angeles County prosecutors allege that Wright registered and voted using the address of an Inglewood property he owned but actually lived outside the district that elected him," The LA Times report notes.
Wright and other members of his committee received declared $5,000 in gifts from gambling interests last year, including lodging at the Barona Luxury Casino Hotel in San Diego, tickets to a Tower of Power concert at the Chukchansi Casino near Yosemite, rounds of golf at the Rolling Hills Casino in Tehama County and VIP entry to the Del Mar horse-racing track.
Land casino interests have also contributed to California Governor Jerry Brown, who has not yet taken a position on the Steinberg-Wright bill.
Not all tribal operators are supportive of the Steinberg-Wright bill; the the 33-tribe California Nations Indian Gaming Assn., are insisting that the bill be limited to online poker, and another tribal grouping is lobbying to kill the legalization, claiming that it would violate their exclusive rights and take customers away from their brick-and-mortar casinos.