California’s efforts to legalize online poker has possibly received a major boost after a Native American tribe pulled out of a coalition which was led by PokerStars.
According to a news report, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians has exited the coalition citing the need to focus its attention on other tribal issues. The coalition includes a number of gaming operators including PokerStars, the Hawaiian Gardens, Morongo tribe, Commerce Club and the Bicycle Club cardrooms.
PokerStars would have provided its coalition partners with an online platform should the online poker bill been approved. San Manuel is one of the 60 tribes that operate casinos in the state and runs the San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino which is near the city of Highland. Industry observers expect the decision to have a bearing on the debate. The news report quoted a tribal executive as calling it a titanic shift in the industry landscape.
In a statement, Jacob Coin, the tribe’s executive director of public affairs said, Because this effort has taken so long and required so much tribal effort and attention … San Manuel has decided to turn to other tribal issues at this time and has thus terminated its participation in the coalition. San Manuel wishes every success to the remaining coalition members and appreciates the fine and effective working relationship it has had with all of them.
Coin added that no inference must be made from the tribe’s exit from the coalition. The development could however have a major impact on the stalled efforts to legalize online poker in the state. Legislative efforts have so far been unsuccessful due to powerful tribal groups failing to reach a consensus on bill provisions.
A key disagreement has revolved around permitting bad actors like PokerStars to enter the market. A group of tribes led by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians have demanded strong restrictions with respect to PokerStars’ entry into the market, resulting in a clash with the tribes supporting PokerStars. The withdrawal of San Manuel leaves the Morongo Band of Mission Indians as the sole tribe supporting PokerStars’ entry.
Apart from issues with its suitability, former CEO of PokerStars parent Amaya Gaming is facing insider trading charges, which has also affected the online giant’s position. Other coalition partners – Bicycle Club and Hawaiian Gardens cardrooms – are similarly facing legal troubles of their own further weakening the coalition. A new online poker bill AB 1677 has been introduced but is not expected to gain much traction this year according to its sponsor Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer.