Upcoming California iGaming Conference Could Be Contentious

Posted on May 9, 2014

For anyone tracking California’s online poker legislation the next calendar date to keep a close eye on is May 22nd. May 22nd doesn’t have anything to do with the legislative calendar, but it is the date of a recently announced one day conference being held by Capitol Weekly which was first reported at onlinepokerreport.com.

It should be noted, the legislature does not have another hearing or committee meeting scheduled to discuss either online poker bill at this time, so the conference will be our best indicator of the possibility for online poker expansion this year.

The conference will feature five separate panel discussions:

Panel #1: Fiscal Impact – How Much Money Is There, and For Who?

Panel #2: Technology – Providers, Users and Security

Panel #3: Luncheon Keynote – Tribal Perspectives

Panel #4: Regulation – Jurisdiction, Sovereignty and Equity

Panel #5: The Politics – Negotiating the Legislative Wrangle

The list of scheduled speakers is currently sitting at an even dozen but will likely continue to grow in the lead up to the conference.

You can find the complete details of the conference here.

The tribal interests will be well represented

The conference will feature several key figures that will play a large role in determining California’s online gambling future, including two tribal chairs who spoke very passionately in favor of a bad actor clause at the April 23 online poker hearing: Jeff Grubbe, the Chair of the Agua Caliente Band of Mission Indians, and Mark Macarro, the Chair of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians.

Also scheduled to appear at the conference is Robert Martin, the Chair of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, who have been a lightning rod in the state since they announced their partnership with PokerStars. Martin spoke adamantly against a bad actor clause during the April 23rd hearing.

Also scheduled to appear at the conference is David Quintana of the California Tribal Business Alliance. The CTBA was the first to speak out against the possible removal of the bad actor language currently in both the Assembly and Senate bills when Chair Leslie Lohse penned not one but two letters in opposition to PokerStars.

The removal of the bad actor language from the bill would allow PokerStars to apply for a license in California, and if, and this is a big if, California’s regulators deem the company suitable they could make their US return.

It will be interesting to see what other speakers are added, and if the tribal Chairs will all speak during Panel #3, or if they will spread throughout the other panels, such as on Panel #4, which will also discuss tribal issues like sovereignty and revenue sharing.

One thing is for certain, if Morongo Chair Robert Martin’s remarks are even close to the speech he delivered in front of the California Assembly we will learn a lot about California’s online poker prospects.

But it will not be from Martin that we might get a glimpse into California’s online future, instead look toward the responses to Martin’s comments from the other tribes to gauge their willingness to fight over the inclusion of PokerStars, or if they are willing to take the compromise position and allow PokerStars’ suitability to be decided by the regulators.

While it’s certainly the most contentious issue, it’s still unclear if the bad actor clause is going to be the line in the stand for California’s online poker dream, with the Morongos, The Bicycle Casino, The Commerce, and Hawaiian Garden on one side and everyone else on the other.

Where’s Sheldon?

One powerful faction that is so far not on the scheduled list of speakers is anyone representing Sheldon Adelson at this point in time.

*EDIT: Per Chris Grove of onlinepokerreport.com, Fabian Nunez of Mercury Public Affairs will represent Sheldon Adelson at the conference.

The Adelson faction was also curiously absent from the recent Pennsylvania hearing, and the concerns the Adelson coalition is raising (focusing on morality) were not even discussed when Pennsylvania reviewed the 200-page, six-month study they commissioned.

This leads me to ask the question: Is the Sheldon argument fizzling out?

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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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