What unites a California Indian gaming coalition the most? It appears it could be the simple threat of more competition, looming with the possibility of the Golden State’s own racetracks jumping into the online gambling and poker fray.
In a meeting last week arranged by Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Nation leader Cody Martinez, the idea was to get many tribes on the same page about some other key issues, namely “tainted assets” and “bad actor” language that currently exists in California Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer‘s proposed online poker bill for the state, AB 167.
The term “tainted assets” refers to anything associated with the PokerStars brand, whether its client data, software platforms, or anything else that bespeaks the company’s core elements. “Bad actor,” of course, refers to any business implicated in the UIGEA mess that came to a head with Black Friday on April 15, 2011.
It all started to come together last week when the National Indian Gaming Association’s convention in San Diego brought together seven out of nine key California tribes that have previously all been united in their approval of the aforementioned “bad actor” and “tainted assets” Â clauses in Jones-Sawyer’s measure. Included in the meeting of minds were the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians leading the pack.
With the tribes finally joining forces, it could be just what previously “bad actor”-tinged PokerStars needs to gain entree into the Golden State’s online market, at least according to Morongo Band of Mission Indians Chairman Robert Martin.
“That’s the idea Sycuan and Pechanga are floating…for the tribes to get together with PokerStars and overcome opposition from the tracks,” said Martin, according to an OnlinePokerReport article. “…If we were all united, I could perhaps see where it would work,” the story further attributed to Martin.
Another anonymous tribal leader, according to that report, chimed in that, “I’d like to see any legislator try to get in front of that train,” referring to the possibility of PokerStars and Indian coalitions teaming up in unison.
All of this camaraderie has not always been the case, as anyone who follows the California online poker wars knows.
While PokerStars did join hands with the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, as well as the Morongo tribe, awhile back, along with several state card rooms, other tribes had remained stalwart in their opposition to not only PokerStars, but the parimutuel horse racing industry, entering the online gaming market in California.
For example, the Pechanga tribe had previously voiced their concerns over race tracks entree, and had also been strongly opposed to PokerStars, noting their support of “bad actor” language in any proposed bill.
At issue has always been which vision will dictate how online poker and gaming in general will be dispensed in California. Â Racetracks jumped on the bandwagon initially with the concept that they are solely experienced at this point in time with offering online gambling in any form via their Off Track Betting (OTB) functions.
Indian tribes conversely feel that online poker should only be the purview of themselves and any of the state’s already licensed and regulated cardrooms. To do otherwise, in their view, would be a direct violation of the state’s gaming compacts with said tribes.
Thus, the soldiering up as a unified front among the tribal coalition. Adding an interesting angle to the back-and-forth volleys is the reality that California Governor Jerry Brown has publicly stated his allegiance and support of the race tracks being included in any legislation in this regard, as have other state lawmakers.