13 Calif. tribes reach agreement on Internet poker bill

Casino industry representatives and exhibitors watch an online poker game at the industry's G2E gaming conference in Las Vegas.
(Julie Jacobson / Associated Press)

After five years of disagreements, 13 California Indian tribes said Tuesday they have reached a compromise on legislation that would legalize Internet poker in the state.

Until recently, tribes including the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians disagreed with other casino operators, including the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, but both sides now support a bill that would only allow current operators of a brick and mortar poker casino to run games on the Internet.

That and other language in the bill could exclude Internet poker companies such as PokerStars, which has partnered with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians in proposing a broader legalization plan.


“In achieving consensus for Internet poker, we reaffirm our commitment to the longstanding principle of limited gaming that has guided California’s public policy toward gaming,” the 13 tribes said in a letter to state lawmakers. “As importantly, we recommit ourselves to realizing legislation that protects children and the vulnerable, creates jobs for Californians, provides additional revenues for state services, and safeguards consumers and the vulnerable from dishonest and unsuitable operators.”

The letter was sent to state Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) and Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), who each have bills pending that would allow state-sanctioned Internet websites to offer gambling to Californians.

The coalition that includes Morongo, PokerStars, Bicycle Club and Commerce Club issued a statement indicating a fight remains ahead.

“Efforts by a select few interests to rewrite longstanding and effective policy in order to gain a competitive market advantage or to lock out specific companies is not in the best interests of consumers or the state and will be vigorously opposed by our coalition, online poker players and many others,” the coalition said in a statement.