It has taken years and years for any progress to made on legalizing online poker in California. In the last year or so, some solid steps have been taken, but one huge obstacle still remains: a bloc of hard-line Native American tribes who want to grab as much of the online poker pie for themselves that they are willing to go scorched Earth and prevent the game from being legalized at all. Even though they have been granted concessions, they still want more, as was evident in a letter they wrote last week to Assemblyman Adam Gray, sponsor of the online poker bill, AB 2863.
Gaming writer Chris Krafcik first published the letter, penned by (in alphabetical order) the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the Barona Band of Mission Indians, the Lytton Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians, the Table Mountain Rancheria of California, the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, and the Yoche Dehe Wintun Nation. Over the years, arguably the biggest demand they have wanted has been to keep companies out of the California market that continue to offer online poker games in the United States after the UIGEA passed in 2006. This quite obviously specifically targets PokerStars, as while they will never admit it, the tribes are deathly afraid of having to compete with Stars. In the meantime, another coalition of tribes and card rooms have teamed up with PokerStars to work on getting Gray’s bill passed.
The hard-line coalition has already been given concessions, as an amendment to AB 2863 was approved that would require companies like PokerStars that remained active in the U.S. from 2006 to 2011 to fork over $20 million or wait five years to apply for an online poker license. The coalition wants more, though. In the letter, they wrote:
….resolving the suitability question in a manner that truly and effectively maintains the highest integrity in the operation of internet poker in California remains the critically important and pivotal issue to be addressed. The language must provide real consequences for past illegal operation of iPoker sites from 2006 to 2011, and must not allow companies to benefit from the tainted assets (including financial assets, brand recognition and player data) gained from that illegal behavior.
Following that haughty explanation, the tribes wrote that they want operators (again, all eyes on PokerStars) who provided internet gambling services after 2006 to have to sit out of the California for ten years AND pay a $60 million fee just for the privilege of applying for a license.
Eric Hollreiser, VP of Corporate Communications for Amaya Inc. and PokerStars tweeted his disgust with the tribes:
It is a shame that obstructionist forces continue to block the passage of a pro-consumer online poker bill in California. We finally have real progress this year, with the majority of gaming tribes supporting the legislation, along with AFL-CIO, SEIU, Teamsters, horse racing tracks, card rooms and gaming operators. Unfortunately, a recent amendment to AB 2863 is unconstitutional and our opponents seem intent to expand upon that flawed and unconstitutional language.