Pechanga Stubbornness Could Derail Online Poker in California for 2015

Written By James Guill on March 17, 2015

Online poker legislation in California is on the brink of stalling out yet again following a stern letter addressed by the Pechanga coalition to Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer. The letter addresses AB 167, the online poker bill currently sponsored by Jones-Sawyer. It tries to paint the bill as a flawed piece of legislation and the coalition reiterated their opposition to the two main issues that have stalled legislation in the last three years.

Beating a Horse that Will Not Die

The long winded letter to Jones-Sawyer addressed the two issues that the Pechanga have been championing for years.

The first is their opposition to horse racetracks being permitted to participate in legalized online poker. They believe that online poker represents an “expansion of gambling” on the part of the racetracks and claim that citizens have already voted against this measure.

Next, they turn their attention to bad actors and tainted assets. The main target of course is Amaya and PokerStars. PokerStars is teamed with a coalition headed by the Morongo Tribe and three of the state’s largest card rooms. As always, the issue is PokerStars’ continued operations in the United States following the passage of the UIGEA.

The Pechanga support a bad actor clause that would ban their participation. To further this desire, they also want to ban companies such as Amaya that have purchased assets from companies that operated after the passage of the UIGEA. Amaya bought PokerStars last year and are trying to bring them into the U.S.

Sadly, this is not a new issue. Thomas Adams of put together an inforgraphic on the back-story of online poker legislation in California dating back to 2009. You will notice the dissolution of California Online Poker Association back in 2012 due to the inability of tribes to reach a consensus on the game.

Continued Stubbornness Slowly Killing Momentum in 2015

Heading into the New Year, many thought that this would finally be the year online poker would be passed in California. After what was viewed as significant progress in 2014 and the softening of views by some on the bad actor clause, the outlook was positive. Unfortunately, the Pechanga have proven to be a tough adversary to persuade and some already view 2015 as a lost cause.

One of those with such a view is AB 9 sponsor Assemblyman Mike Gatto. Earlier this month he revealed that he thought online poker had a 50-50 shot at passing in 2015. Now he believes that the odds of it passing are 35% by 2016. This pessimism appears to be a growing trend as an anonymous state official recently told that a bill would not be possible without the support of the Pechanga.

The Pechanga have claimed in the past that they prefer to abandon the issue of online poker rather than compromise their principles regarding bad actors and racetracks. So far, they are sticking to their guns, and it is delaying legislation that could help the state. A different approach is needed to resolve this, but does one exist that would satisfy most major stakeholders?

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James Guill

Originally a semi-professional player, James transitioned to the media side in 2008. Since then he has made a name for himself reporting for some of the top names in the industry. When not covering the poker world, James travels around central Virginia hunting for antique treasure.

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