Lawmakers in California are taking another stab at an online poker bill as the amended SB1463 is ready to go to committee. This latest version of is markedly different from previous efforts thanks to some serious lobbying efforts by the state’s powerful tribal gaming interests.
Cali poker watchers will recall that Indian tribes and organizations aren’t particularly interested in sharing the poker pie with out-of-state gaming interests. To that end, the newly amended bill restricts online gaming licenses to casinos and card rooms that are currently in the Caifornia live poker business.
This move should also prevent small tribes and bands who don’t offer gaming today from creating gaming sites with offshore poker site. While the move clearly serves the financial interests of the larger tribes, it could also prevent a fair amount of chaos. Currently there are over 100 recognized Indian tribes in California, but only a few have the means to run a casino.
Given the other new additions to the California bill, it’s unlikely that the big tribes will have to worry much about competition anyways.
Anyone looking to grab a California online gaming license is definitely going to have to jump through some hoops to get it. For starters, applicants are required to front a hefty $30 million license fee.
Under the new terms of the bill, the gaming licensing period has been extended from three, to five years. That move alone keeps an extra $4 million in each tribe’s coffers. There’s also language in the bill stating that the fee can be re-negotiated at the end of the five-year cycle. (Sometimes lobbying can really pay off.)
Bring in the Partners
Tribal leaders may not be interested in competing with other tribes, but they’re more than open to help from outsiders. In its new form, SB1463 allows gambling companies from across the world to partner up with tribes to create poker sites. The gaming companies would not be subject to the same three-year “good standing” period that license holders will be.
Allowing partnerships is a nice touch since Bwin.party has already teamed up with the United Auburn Indian Community, the state’s largest tribal interest.
What it Means
It’s hard to say whether or not the amended bill will have any impact on whether or not California actually winds up with online poker in the future. What’s very clear is that Tribal gaming interests have plenty of pull in the Golden State.
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