California Tribes Agree on Online Poker Deal - Almost!

The debate regarding online poker in California recently took a turn for the better, as far as getting it regulated is concerned, however as is the case in the state, some of the optimism was quickly chipped away. Language has been agreed upon by a huge amount of Californian tribes, and terms for a bill have been put together meaning that for the first time in 5 years a huge majority of Indian tribes in the state are all in agreeance, however the draft legislation includes a ‘bad actor’ clause, and of course, that has ruffled a few feathers.

Details of the drafted bill state that players must be physically located in the state of California and over the age of 21. It also states that only “a qualified federally recognized California Indian tribe” or “qualified card room” may hold a licence, and that the license is valid for 10 years. Further points include a one time deposit of $5 Million must be paid, each license holder may operate a maximum of two skins and that there will be an ongoing fee of 5% gross gaming revenue, with only poker available to be offered and that the operators staff must also be located in the state. That of course would probably be accepted by everyone, however the that fact that the bad actor clause states that there will be restrictions on all companies that participated in the US market post 31st December 2006 is the point that has of course caused the problems.

This initial draft has been signed off by 13 indian tribes, with the big exception of the Morongo Band of Indians who have of course recently entered into a deal with PokerStars to provide online poker in California. The Morongo Band of Indians own and operate the Commerce, the Bicycle Casino and the Hawaiian Garden Casino and the fact that this proposed legislation includes a bad actor clause is of course not going to please them one bit. In fact they have already responded.

The Morongo and Stars Response

PokerStars owners, the Rational Group, together with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians have released a statement that makes their position on the issue of the ‘bad actor’ clause very clear...in no uncertain terms. and while they agree on most points, and that a well regulated environment is indeed required, regarding that ‘bad actor’ clause they state that it,“is nothing other than a blatant attempt to provide certain interests with an unfair competitive advantage by arbitrarily locking out trusted iPoker brands. We will vigorously oppose any legislation that includes this language.”

The statement continues in a somewhat accusational manner when they add, “the legislation would not exclude companies or individuals that clearly have operated illegal California-facing casino wagering and sports betting sites and that have admitted to breaking the law.” The Morongo are a powerful force in the state and the fact that they will oppose this so strongly could just mean that California may have to wait a while longer for regulated poker.

There are of course offshore online poker rooms that serve California poker players, with the largest of those being that of Bovada and at present, that’s where poker players in the state will continue to enjoy hitting the virtual felt.