All Tribes But One Agree on New California Online Poker Bill

Written By Steve Ruddock on May 30, 2014 - Last Updated on September 13, 2022
New Online Poker Bill To be Introduced in Cali

After several productive meetings between California’s tribes a new bill could be introduced into the California legislature, trumping the two competing bills currently sitting in the Assembly and Senate respectively.

eGaming Review North America’s Martyn Hannah is reporting that a new, consolidated, online poker bill could be introduced in California as soon as next week. Precisely what these bills will contain is unknown at this point, but according to people in attendance the tribes in attendance at the meetings were able to hash out all of their differences.

According to tribal lobbyist Jerome Encinas, a recent meeting between several tribes went well, and the tribes (minus the Morongos) are now 99.9% in agreement. Encinas told EGR, “All issues are resolved and we are now in the process of setting up meetings with legislators to discuss how we move forward.”

This timetable would still fall after the legislative deadline of June 1 for bills to pass their house of origin, but as I detailed in this article at the deadline is a “soft” deadline, and it wouldn’t be difficult for a sympathetic lawmaker to use the “gut and amend” option to introduce the new streamlined bill.

This latest consensus comes shortly after the tribes met for the first time and ironed out the number of poker rooms each licensee would be allowed to offer, the specifics (and what was agreed upon) of Tuesday’s meeting were not discussed, but almost certainly the inclusion / exclusion of a “bad actor” clause was hammered out – without the Morongo’s of course.

Another potential issue that was likely resolved is the tribal vision of the industry, particularly where the California Horse Racing industry fits in. For the most parts the tribes have sought to bar race tracks from applying for a license, favoring some type of revenue sharing model instead.

What about the Morongos?

In all of these meetings, and these declared “consensuses” one thing has been missing, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, and it’s the Morongos and their partnership with PokerStars that has the capability to fracture the tribes and kill California’s online poker bill.

So while the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians are calling it a consensus, it seems to be anything but. It’s only a consensus amongst their coalition.

Best case scenario for players

The best case scenario for proponents of online poker expansion in California (who are not in favor or against PokerStars per se) would be for the Morongo-less coalition to acquiesce and call for a removal of the bad actor clause in their proposed bill, and let the regulators decide if PokerStars is suitable.

But this is probably not going to happen.

Why is this unlikely?

If this was the case it would make little sense for the Morongos to have not taken part in the discussions. The fact that the Morongos were not in on the recent talks tells me there is still a big rift between these two factions.

Hearing scheduled

In addition to the potential introduction of a fusion of the current poker bills, Jeff Grubbe, the Chairman of the Agua Caliente Tribe stated that the legislature would likely hold an online poker hearing in early June at the recent online gambling conference hosted by Capitol Weekly.

These hearings have been quite productive, particularly the hearing held back in April in California, where viewers and attendees all came away with a very optimistic view of California’s chances – even with the bombshell announcement mid-hearing made by PokerStars and their California partners.

Of course, the divergent interests have drawn what appear to be official lines in the sand now, so the still-to-be-scheduled hearing in June could be a bit more contentious, but it will almost certainly paint a very positive view of online poker expansion.

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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,,, and USA Today.

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