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Morongo Tribe in California Fights for Online Poker

January 15, 2010 (CAP Newswire) — Earlier this week, a meeting of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association focused partially on a new effort to legalize Internet poker in the Golden State.

The subject has been a controversial one in California. As the most populous state in the U.S. — and one where Internet poker is extremely popular — there’s a growing consensus that tremendous amounts of money can be made from the legalization and regulation of online poker, both by the government and independent parties.

And, indeed, law experts agree that the regulations outlawing Internet gambling in America, the UIGEA, would not be violated by a law legalizing online poker within a single state’s borders.

Last year, a group led by the Southern California-based Morongo Band of Mission Indians tried to introduce legislation to regulate and tax Internet poker in the state, but that effort couldn’t get off the ground before the end of the year, partially because the state was facing a catastrophic economic shutdown that consumed most of the legislative agenda.

So, expectations are high that, with more time, the state’s gambling interests can achieve some sort of legislation this year.

“Consensus-building began in earnest, prompting former state Sen. Jim Battin to predict an Internet poker bill could arrive sometime this year,” writes the Desert Sun about the meeting. Read that article here.

However, that consensus is anything but a sure thing; and reports indicate that this week’s meeting saw the same sort of dissent that the issue faced last year.

“Several months after a failed push for state legislation authorizing a ‘tribal intrastate Internet poker consortium,’ the Morongo Band of Mission Indians near Banning seems no closer to getting significant support from other successful gaming tribes,” writes Jim Miller at the Press-Enterprise.

“The Morongo tribe so far has not found an author for legislation containing the online poker proposal,” continues Miller. “A Senate committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the issue next month.” Read Miller’s article here.

The main problem seem to be fears from some tribes that legalizing online poker means that people will have less of a reason to visit the land-based casinos where so much profit is currently made. The opposing perspective is that, since online poker is already happening, a framework should be created to prevent all the profits from leaving the state, as is currently the case.

Legalizing and regulating online poker within the borders of America’s largst state seems to make sense, especially considering the taxation aspect and California’s financial crisis. But it remains doubtful that the necessary parties can agree on how to make that happen.