California Online Poker Bill Wins Key Indian Tribe Endorsement

February 23rd, 2016 | by Brian Corlisse
California native tribes online poker

California online poker’s future looks a bit brighter, now that 33 of the state’s native tribes support a new bill authored by state Assemblymen Adam Gray and Reggie Jones-Sawyer. (Image: cniga.com)

The latest California online poker bill push from State Assemblymen Adam Gray (D-District 21) and Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-District 59) is mustering support from some key Indian tribes.

AB 2863, introduced on Friday to the State Assembly, would authorize Native American tribes and commercial gambling companies partnered with land-based card rooms to offer Internet poker in the Golden State.

The first $60 million of annual revenues would be directed to the California Horse Racing Internet Poker Fund. Ninety-five percent of that money would be allocated to the Horse Racing Board for distribution among the state’s seven racetracks, with the remaining five percent going to the Fair and Exposition Fund.

On Tuesday, the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) backed the Gray/Jones-Sawyer bill. CNIGA represents 33 sovereign member nations and acts on their behalf for gaming-related legislation.

“Many don’t want to just sit in front of a slot machine or at a card table. They want a different experience … That is why CNIGA issued a set of Internet gaming principles to meet the changing times,” the organization’s chairman, Steve Stallings, said in a statement.

“It appears that Assemblyman Gray’s AB 2863 meets those stated principles and we are supportive of … efforts to allow gaming Tribes the option to adapt to the changing technology.”

Key Endorsements

Gray and Jones-Sawyer both serve on California’s Governmental Organization Committee, the group tasked with handling all things gambling within the Golden State’s borders. Both elected in 2012 to the legislature, the duo has authored several bills to regulate iPoker, but to no avail.

Will AB 2863 finally be the meal ticket that will fulfill the appetites of tribal groups, card rooms, and the horseracing industry? Receiving the endorsement of CNIGA is a giant first step in the long road ahead. 

Among the gaming association’s long roster of nations is the Yurok Tribe, the largest of the state’s 109 federally recognized Indian tribes, with nearly 5,000 members. CNIGA also represents the interests of the powerful San Manuel, Morongo, and Rincon Bands of Mission Indians.

In addition to CNIGA, the Pala Band is also backing AB 2863, with its chairman, Robert Smith, saying a regulated market “would ensure consumer interests are protected” while creating new jobs and generating additional income. The Pala support could prove to be crucial, as the group has previously stood with the California Tribal Business Alliance in opposing online poker legislation.

All About 2863

In addition to the first $60 million going to the ponies, AB 2863 sets forth a series of mandates. Below are a few of the more important provisions.

While both tribal groups and commercial card rooms would be allowed to offer online poker, their land-based facilities must have been in operation for a minimum of five years before applying for an interactive gaming license.

Should the state find the applicant qualified, each iPoker license would be valid for seven years.

AB 2863 is free of any such “bad actor” language or clause, meaning the path would be paved for PokerStars to partner with a tribal casino or card room should the proposition become law.

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