The California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) is voicing its stance to lawmakers in Sacramento for detouring their consideration from online poker to daily fantasy sports (DFS), the largest and most important organization representing Indian gaming interests saying Internet poker should come first.
Last Wednesday, California’s Assembly Committee on Governmental Organization (GO) opted to overlook Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer’s (D-District 59) online poker bill in favor of pushing through DFS legislation to create a regulated market that protects consumers playing the fantasy sports contests.
“The regulation of fantasy sports is well intended,” CNIGA Chairman Steve Stallings said in a press release. “However, the state needs to prove it can deal with one online game, iPoker, before it takes on others.”
Tribal and Error
Jones-Sawyer’s AB 167 has been floating around the halls of the Capitol for nearly a year. The iPoker proposition titled the “Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act” would charge operators one-time $10 million licensing fee, tax gross proceeds at 8.5 percent, and establish an Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Fund.
Though CNIGA wants to legalize online poker, the primary hurdle facing the market’s liberalization is the Native American community.
The California Tribal Business Alliance is adamantly opposed to legalizing Internet gambling in fear of losing its current monopoly on casino gaming. The powerful Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians are also against iGaming.
In contrast, the Morongo Band and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians support such legislation and have teamed with Amaya and PokerStars to campaign for its advancement.
The seemingly endless deadlock between tribal leaders has led to state politicians slowly abandoning such legislation in favor of taking up points that have bipartisan support and are predominantly free of controversy.
Bring Poker Back
GO is chaired by Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-District 21), a staunch backer of online gaming who himself introduced a shell iPoker bill last April, meaning the committee isn’t necessarily giving up on Internet poker.
Unfortunately for those looking to play poker on their computers and mobile devices, the committee hasn’t confirmed one way or another whether iPoker will be considered at a future hearing.
Stallings believes Jones-Sawyer’s legislation has the potential to bring compromise.
“There have been long standing divisions among the stakeholders, including tribal governments, some of which are members of CNIGA,” Stallings said. “However, I believe, the Jones-Sawyer bill opens the door to compromises that can finally bring the majority together.”
Jones-Sawyer, a member of GO, voted in favor of Gray’s DFS bill that passed through committee last week.
AB 1437 dictates that daily fantasy companies like DraftKings and FanDuel must obtain permits from the state before offering contests to Californians. They will also be forced to pay an annual fee based on revenues and file taxes as any other company operating in the state does.
“Millions of our constituents … are participating in this activity (DFS),” Gray said last week. “We have an obligation to put safeguards in place.”
Perhaps the same holds true for online poker.