California online poker has the potential to provide a drastic and much-needed boost to the overall health of online poker, but one tribal lobbyist in opposition of such legislation says 2015 won’t be the year.
According to David Quintana, a lobbyist representing the California Tribal Business Alliance, State Sen. Isadore Hall (D-District 35) has assured tribal organizations that the Senate Government Organization Committee (GO) that he chairs has no plans to tackle online poker this year.
Quintana told Capitol Weekly, a media outlet that covers California government and politics, that Hall “will not be setting or hearing any Internet poker bills this year.”
Though Hall is one of four state lawmakers who introduced Internet poker legislation in 2015, the kickback from certain tribal coalitions and sentiments of division among those in Sacramento has led many to believe the iGaming push has passed.
“Online poker is dead,” said one source who wished to remain anonymous. “There was no momentum.”
With 38 million residents and an annual $7 billion Indian casino industry, California racetracks see Internet gaming as its saving grace, a clear way to revitalize its struggling balance sheets.
But after three online poker bills were introduced earlier this year in the Assembly, the “in” word seems to be “inactivity.”
State Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-District 21) is Hall’s adjacent constituent, leading the GO committee in the Assembly, but unlike Hall he isn’t ready to give up on iPoker.
Though his Assembly Bill 431 that would authorize Internet poker is currently on the inactive file, Gray says the bill can move forward at any time.
“The issue is alive, very much so,” Gray recently said. AB 431 unanimously passed both the GO and Appropriations committees in April and May, and while last Friday was the deadline for bills to move out of their house of origin, the cutoff doesn’t apply to bills that require a two-thirds vote.
“This is a two-thirds vote bill and we can take it up any time we want,” Gray declared. “Do we want to establish a framework for Internet poker or do we want to do nothing?”
Too Many Chiefs in the Kitchen
Perhaps the biggest hurdle in bringing online poker to California are the native tribal leaders who have strong yet divided opinions when it comes to iGaming legislation.
Polls in recent years have found there is overwhelming support among citizens in the state to legalize, regulate, and tax online poker, but that isn’t the consensus on the reservations.
In May, after initially taking a position of neutrality, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians along with eight other tribal leaders wrote a letter officially opposing AB 431 due to the bill’s unclear language in regards to licensing eligibility, primarily potential for commercial operators to infiltrate the tribes’ current gambling monopoly.
On the other side there’s the Morongo and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians who have teamed up with PokerStars to create its own alliance to promote online poker in the state.
Though the decisiveness among Native Americans can’t block state governmental policies, it certainly appears to be an obstacle that is disrupting and hindering the progression of online poker in California.