California iPoker: One Step Forward. One Step Back.

California Poker BillAs one Californian tribe jumps off the fence to support Adam Gray´s Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act, another tribe voices opposition to it.

The “complicated mosaic” of [geolink href=””]online poker legislation in California[/geolink] took one step forward and one step back this week as the United Auburn Indian Community joined forces with tribes in the PokerStars coalition to support the current proposals to regulate online poker in California, and then the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria kicked off because they were excluded.

The support of the United Auburn Indian Community (UAIC) was generally reported amongst the pro-regulation media as a positive sign that the tribal stalemate in California was coming to an end. However, many overlooked the fact that the tribe is still involved in legal action against the state´s cardrooms – partners in the PokerStars coalition – for hosting house-banked games.

Second Shift in UAIC Support in Two Years

This is the second time that the United Auburn Indian Community has changed its position on online poker in California in two years. Originally part of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians’ coalition opposing PokerStars’ and the racetracks participation in the Californian market, the tribe then teamed up with the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians and the Pala Band of Mission Indians to adopt a “compromise position” with regard to bad actors and racetracks.

The latest shift in support is likely due to Bwin.Party´s potential exit from the US market. The tribe entered into an agreement with the troubled online poker site back in May 2012. But now it looks as if Bwin.Party is being dumped by its online partner in New Jersey (the Borgata Casino), the United Auburn Indian Community is looking after its best interests and teaming up with the site it believes will be the powerhouse in a regulated online poker market – if legislation ever gets passed.

Graton Rancheria Opposition Largely Unreported

The opposition to Adam Gray´s Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act by the Graton Rancheria tribe stems from proposals to limit licenses to entities that have operated a land-based gaming facility for at least five years. The Graton Resort & Casino opened in November 2013. At 340,000 sq. feet, it is more than double the size of the Commerce Cardroom and Caesars´ Harrah´s Casino combined, yet would be excluded from applying for an online poker license.

The tribe argues that this clause in the bill discriminates against them, as it would delay their entry into the online poker market until 2018 and – by then – most customers´ market preferences would be firmly established. In a letter to Adam Gray, the tribe request that the five-year requirement is removed from the licensing requirements. “If the language [in the bill] is not changed,” the letter concludes, “we will have no choice but to take every step in our power to oppose it”.

Just One of Many Issues to be “Changed in the Process”

The issue of how long a land-based casino has been in business is just one of many issues that need to be “changed in the process” according to online regulation advocate and poker affiliate Chris Grove from Online Poker Report. Grove was reacting on Twitter to comments that the [geolink href=””]California online bill is ”terrible” for players[/geolink] when he posted:

However the deluge of opposition to Adam Gray´s proposals – particularly those which would make playing at unregulated poker sites a felony – prompted Grove to later write on his sponsored 2+2 poker thread I think Californians should contact Adam Gray and articulate why the felony component is flawed and unnecessary.

If it Looks Like a Mess and Quacks Like a Mess, It´s a Mess

So, where are we with the current proposals to regulate online poker in California? Most of tribes support them, but some of the more powerful tribes (and bigger political contributors) are still opposed to the involvement of bad actors and their “tainted assets”. Some of the horseracing industry is in favor of a $60 million bribe to keep them out of the game, while others are concerned that this will set a precedent that will exclude them from any future online gaming legislation.

The players are against it. The current proposals will drive unregulated sites out of California eighteen months before regulated sites deal their first hands of cards, and player protection – the usual justification for higher rake and lower rewards – is conspicuous by its absence. With up to $60 million in revenue going to the horseracing industry, the state is hardly going to benefit financially from the regulation of online poker and therefore Gray´s proposals are likely to be rejected when they come to be voted on by the Assembly and Senate.


Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett