Pechanga Band Chairman Not Budging on iPoker Stance

Mark MacarroThe recent GiGse 2015 event took place this past week in San Francisco and saw many gaming interests represented. Not only did the event feature discussion of the current gaming industry but also the online poker industry which the state has yet to enter. Disagreements on a variety of subjects have left the state still in limbo as to if they will be passing legislation to allow online poker gaming.

During the recent event, several representatives of the state’s Indian tribes were on hand to discuss such matters including the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians. The chairman of the tribe, Mark Macarro, stated that the tribe will not be budging on their position to not allow race tracks to become involved with online poker gaming.

Speaking to a panel during the GiGse, Macarro stated that the only entities that can play poker in California are the Indian tribes and the card clubs. The Pechanga Band is part of a seven tribe coalition that are not willing to allow the racing industry to be involved with online poker gaming.

Macarro further stated that if you go beyond the Indian Tribes and card clubs within the state for gaming, then you are expanding the option within the state. Macarro claims this will be in violation of the public policy that limits gaming options within California. Many members of the coalition believe that if tracks are given licensing, their constitutional guarantee for casino gambling would be threatened.

The strong position of the coalition does not bode well for the opportunity for online poker legislation to be passed within the state. It does not seem that any agreement will be reached within this year to pass legislation for the activity.

On the other side, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians are working with the San Manual Band of Indians as well as three card rooms of LA and PokerStars, all okay with working with the racing industry. The attorney representing this group, George Forman, stated that the tribes may need the racing industry’s political pull to help get legislation passed. Two thirds of the Senate and Assembly vote is needed for legislation to pass.

According to Forman, the other coalition’s need for bad actor clauses and provisions for tainted assets could lead to failure of legislation approval. According to Forman, the Pechange stance could lead to a bill not passing this year or possibly ever.

On the horse track side of things, a representative of the industry, Roby Black of Eclipse Government Affairs, stated that the tracks will be pursuing efforts to be able to purse online poker within the state. Black stated the tracks want equal opportunity moving forward. The racing industry does not plan on settling for a share of the revenues from internet gaming instead of being allowed to obtain online gaming licenses.

Bad actor issues also remain a big problem within the state as several tribes are still in agreement that this type of clause needs to be included in the legislation. However, this year, discussions have been more open as to some type of agreement or compromise when it comes to allowing such companies as PokerStars to offer online gaming options within the state.

There are currently four different measures on the table in California with hearings scheduled to discuss such matters beginning next week. Over the next few weeks, we should learn more about the direction the state is moving and how they plan on pushing forward to see online poker legislation passed into law.