California iGaming Week in Review: Capitol Weekly iGaming Conference and the Race Track Lobby

Posted on May 16, 2014

As the California tribes try to hold together the shaky coalition they have formed amidst the swirling debate regarding PokerStars and whether they should be allowed into the California market (assuming a bill is passed of course) another entrenched group in the California gambling scene has been almost completely overlooked: The California racing industry.

In this installment of the California iGaming Week in Review I’ll take a look at where the race tracks stand on online poker and what role they may or may not play if online poker is passed in the state.

I’ll also offer up some speculation on why PokerStars is the only iGaming company that has been linked to a California card room or tribe, and get you updated on the latest happenings at next week’s iGaming conference being hosted by Capitol Weekly.

California race tracks feeling left out

During the California online poker hearing last month the focus was on clearly the tribes and bad actor clauses, and even more so after PokerStars press release in the middle of the whole thing sent shockwaves through the poker world.

But while all that was going on the representatives of the California race tracks voiced their concerns over being left on the sidelines when it came to the two online poker bills, and while they are not the tribal gaming lobby or even as powerful as some of the major card-rooms in California, the racing industry is still well represented and shouldn’t be brushed aside.

Joining the race tracks cause was organized labor, which also wondered aloud during the hearing why race tracks were being excluded from consideration, and the combination of the two groups could prove to be every bit as much a monkey wrench as PokerStars.

So while the tribes and card rooms work with lawmakers and regulators to solve the PokerStars problem, the race track problem continues to loom in the background and could be just as troublesome in the long run.

Non-PokerStars connected Tribes and card rooms mum on partners

Another intriguing non-development in California is the lack of partnerships that have been rumored / announced up to this point.

We know that PokerStars has partnered with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the Bicycle Casino, the Commerce Casino, and Hawaiian Gardens, but no other potential partnerships have been even hinted at.

This is the opposite of what took place in New Jersey, and Nevada, where companies staked out their partnerships early on.

Making this all the more odd is that the PokerStars partnership is by far the most contentious (perhaps the only contentious partnership) so there wouldn’t seem to be much of an issue if other partnerships were formed or announced.

Perhaps the card rooms and tribes are simply waiting for the process to play out a bit further, but this is certainly something to keep an eye on and could be a good measuring stick when it comes to an iPoker bill’s chances to pass this year.

Chris Grove will host panel at upcoming iGaming conference

Last week we told you about the upcoming online gaming conference being held in California, and we told you that more speakers would be announced in the coming days.

Well, more speakers have been announced including Chris Grove of OnlinePokerReport.com who will moderate one of the panels at the event. Grove also moderated a panel at iGNA earlier this year and OnlinePokerReport.com is recognized as one of the best outlets for iGaming news.

Which panel Grove will moderate is unclear at this point, but as one of the top minds following the iGaming industry it should be an excellent discussion.

California iGaming Barometer

We stand basically where we stood last week, which is to say we really don’t know which way California is going to go at this point.

Next week’s conference could give us a pretty good idea of what the fallout from the online poker hearing last month is, and whether or not the PokerStars situation is a deal breaker. However, the fact that so many tribal interests will be in attendance seems to indicate a deal is still on the table.

Additionally, we’re still waiting for the legislature to hold committee hearings on the online poker bills, and there are some impending legislative deadlines – which is something we’ll talk about in next week’s column.

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Steve Ruddock

Steve Ruddock is a longtime member of the online gambling industry. He covers the regulated US online casino and poker industries for variety of publications, including OnlinePokerReport.com, PlayNJ.com, USPoker.com, and USA Today.

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