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Bigger Goals Emerge for Indian Tribes Fighting for Online Poker Regulation in California

April 12, 2010 (CAP Newswire) – Over the past year, the efforts of a group of tribes in California to get Internet poker legalized and regulated has been generating headlines. In the most recent update from this story, the situation is still slow-going: There’s lots of support for the initiative, it seems, but California lawmakers have other priorities.

Worse still, the American Indian gambling tribes in question are having trouble agreeing on just how the plan should move forward.

But that isn’t stopping a group of them from proceeding. Not only are they pressing on with their mission to legalize online poker in California (and cut themselves a fair share of those sure-to-be significant profits in the process), but they’re also working to make sure they don’t get left out in the rain regarding any federal Internet gambling laws that may be passed, as well.

However, this new federal focus is proving just as slow-going. “A divisive debate by American Indian gaming tribes over Internet gambling ended April 8 with an anti-climatic vote to delay action on a resolution opposing and suggesting changes to proposed federal legislation to legalize online poker,” reports Dave Palermo in Indian Country Today.

“Tribal members of the National Indian Gaming Association voted 27-6 with one abstention to table what was intended as a compromise resolution in response to proposed bills by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and others to legalize and tax online poker.”

However, another article by Palermo in the same publication paints a brighter picture. In a story titled “Opposition to online wagering softening”, Palermo writes that “Tribal governments and commercial gambling companies are softening their opposition to legal Internet wagering, although it does not appear likely that pending legislation to permit online poker will be successful in the current session of Congress.”

And some of those tribes that want legal online poker are stepping beyond California’s borders. “An association of California tribes has joined with the United South and Eastern Tribes in supporting federal legislation to legalize online gambling as long as it protects the rights of tribes operating government casinos under terms established by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988,” Palermo continues.

In the article, Chairwoman of the California Tribal Business Alliance Leslie Lohse is quoted as stating the importance of tribes becoming more involved with the national drive to legalize online gambling, such as those currently being proposed by Barney Frank and Jim McDermott. Lohse cited concerns that such federal legislation could interfere with tribal-state agreements worth billions of dollars in revenue, unless those tribes make sure they assert some voice in the process at this early stage.

For his part, Barney Frank seems interested in cutting the tribes in; Frank wrote to Ernie Stevens, the National Indian Gaming Association chairman, last month, stating: “I intend that this legislation should have no impact on (tribal) compacts with states; that is, the bill should not in any way impair existing rights regarding compacts either currently in force or to be signed in the future.”