Online poker in California would be a big money maker for anyone who can get into the market.
That, unfortunately, is part of the problem: everyone has a different idea of exactly who should be able to offer Internet poker there, and these divisions have made it nearly impossible to come up with anything approaching a consensus, meaning bills go nowhere and California’s poker players are left out in the cold.
But recently, there have been some promising signs that suggest the situation could be improving.
Over the past week, officials for Caesars have suggested on at least two occasions that they’d be open to seeing a “bad actor” clause dropped from California’s online poker legislation, something that would allow Amaya Gaming to bring PokerStars and Full Tilt into the state.
While neither comment mentioned bad actor clauses by name, the tone of the statements seemed to suggest that Caesars is willing to compete against anyone.
“We compete up and down the Las Vegas strip every day,” Seth Palansky, Caesars Interactive Entertainment’s Vice President of Corporate Communications, told pokerfuse. “As long as everyone is on a level playing field and the regulations are set up as a win, win, win, we’ll enter the market.”
That was followed up by comments from Jan Jones Blackhurst of Caesars that were quite supportive of PokerStars. Chris Krafcik of Gambling Compliance reported that Blackhurst said that Amaya and PokerStars “should be considered for legalization in the US.”
Those sorts of comments have been rare in the online poker landscape, particularly when it applies to the California market.
Alone, they would have been a small step in the right direction, but not all that notable: after all, Caesars alone can’t build a coalition to pass legislation in California.
But over the last week, several Native American tribes in California have also shown a willingness to compromise in order to hopefully pass a bill regulating Internet poker in the state.
The Morongo Band of Indians, which has been allied with PokerStars in an effort to help the brand gain access to the state if online poker returns there, now appears to be taking the position that negotiation and compromise will be necessary on many issues.
“There has to be compromise or it won’t get done,” Morongo Band Chairman Robert Martin said to the Press Enterprise after a panel at the Western Indian Gaming Conference. “At the end of the day, we all want what is best for the tribes.”
For many tribes, “what’s best” has meant keeping strict limits on who would be able to operate an online poker site in California. However, more tribes seem to be getting on board with the idea that online poker is worth having even if there’s more competition allowed than they’d prefer.
Just last week, three tribes (the Pala Band of Mission Indians, the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians, and the United Auburn Indian Community) signed on to a letter sent to the two lawmakers that have introduced online poker bills in California’s legislature this year.
In the letter, the tribes stated that they would like bad actor clauses to apply to individuals rather than companies, which would allow a brand like PokerStars (which was purchased by Amaya Gaming last year) to almost certainly be licensed in the state.
They also expressed a willingness to allow the horse racing industry to operate poker sites, something that has been opposed by many tribes in the past.