In a stunning turn of events, the Pechanga coalition is considering a possible partnership with – we hope you’re seated – PokerStars (we double-checked to make sure this wasn’t an April Fool’s prank). On Saturday, Dave Palermo with Online Poker Report revealed the potential partnership between PokerStars and the most powerful group in California online poker.
According to the report, tribal leaders met on Tuesday in San Diego and floated the possibility of an alliance between PokerStars card room and California Indian tribes. If this partnership becomes a reality, this would be the biggest step forward towards online poker legislation in California to date.
Partnership Would Still Leave Racetracks on Outside Looking In
The partnership was first floated last week during the National Indian Gaming Association convention. According to tribal leaders in attendance at the conference, the Pechanga are suggesting the coalition as a way to bypass the horse racing industry and move forward with legislation.
The Pechanga is willing to soften their stances on bad actors and tainted assets in order to try to form a consensus among tribes that will allow online poker for tribes and state card room. They still want horse racetracks excluded.
It is unclear whether a consensus can be reached regarding racetracks. Some tribes still believe that racetracks should be allowed to offer online poker while some believe that the tribes and card rooms could provide revenue sharing with the tracks over allowing them to run sites.
Coalition May be Forced to Address Track Issue
The horse racing industry in California has long contended that they deserve a spot in legalized iPoker in the state. There is also little chance that they would accept a revenue sharing deal as it could be removed by the legislature at whim.
Last year, racing officials were quoted as saying that they would tie up legislation in court if it did not include racetracks. In addition, Governor Jerry Brown has also spoken out against any legislation that doesn’t include the horse racing industry.
Legislators and stakeholders do not want either scenario. Legal challenges to this bill could delay iPoker regulation by years. It is unlikely that legislators would push a bill that is likely to be vetoed, so it appears that further negotiation on the issue of racetracks is needed.
A New Beginning or Wishful Thinking?
It is natural to view this recent news with a bit of skepticism based on everything that has happened, or rather what hasn’t happened, in recent years. The question now is why the Pechanga are willing to back down from one of their traditional stances.
Simply stated, forces in and outside of the state are working against them. In California, their coalition is really the only group with any political clout that is opposing PokerStars. Furthermore, their position was easier to assume when it was unclear whether the company would be allowed back in New Jersey.
Last week, Amaya announced that they expect to be operational in New Jersey by the end of Quarter 3 of 2015. This is the first time a company official has set a timeline, making it much more likely that it’s going to happen this time.
Pechanga sees the writing on the wall and they see the potential of online gambling. For now, they will continue to posture against horse racing but if a consensus can be made on online poker involving PokerStars, odds are that the horse racing issue will be addressed with great swiftness. If this partnership is finalized, expect significant movement to be made on this bill prior to PokerStars launching in September.