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California Internet Poker Update

August 20, 2009 (CAP Newswire) — The new effort by a group of California tribes and card clubs to initiate fully legalized and regulated online poker in that state is hitting more speedbumps. In addition to yesterday’s announcement by the Senate leader that the state Congress probably won’t have time to address the proposal in the current session, other problems have appeared.

According to San Diego’s North County Times, the Pechanga Band of Mission Indians, an influential tribe in Southern California that owns a large casino near the inland city of Temecula, has announced that it is officially opposed to the plan. Like the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the tribe that initiated the new plan, the Pechanga tribe is located within Riverside County.

The chairman of the Pechanga tribe, Mark Macarro, told the North County Times that a poll of his tribe members indicates that they’re generally opposed to Internet poker playing.

"As we weigh these proposed policies that would significantly expand gaming, we must take into account the opinions and concerns of the people of California, particularly in light of the commitments we have made about limited gaming," Macarro said in a written statement. (Read the North County Times story here.)

The Morongo tribe has also been accused of trying to unfairly gain a dominant role in California’s online poker industry with this proposal. The tribe has denied that, however, with spokesman Patrick Dorinson stating that “This isn’t a take it or leave it proposal. It’s a starting point to form an LLC (limited liability company) that would need to meet the needs of different participants. If legislation is passed, then we would look at the structure of the consortium again, as people who join would want to have input.” (Read more about this story at EGR Magazine, here.)
And, according to the Capitol Weekly, a publication that follows California political issues, the California Tribal Business Alliance (CTBA), an group representing several casino tribes, “sent an opposition letter to legislators last week” about the Internet poker proposal. “I guarantee this bill is going nowhere in the next four weeks,” said CTBA lobbyist David Quintana. "The opposition has broadened."

There has been a small spot of good news for the proposal, though. Per the same Capitol Weekly article, “a majority of members of the California Indian Nations Gaming Association (CNIGA) voted for a resolution ‘To support the concept in principle of a joint venture enterprise between California tribes and licensed card rooms to offer online intrastate internet poker and to proceed with further analysis’” late on Wednesday.  According to the article, the CNIGA consists of 36 tribes, many of which operate casinos (including Morongo itself). (Click here to read the article at the Capitol Weekly website.)