8 Aug

Rumors of Online Poker Progress in Cali? Unknown Sources speak volumes

Think back to your high school years, when just about everyone was involved in a social clique. California’s online poker prospects could be looked upon in a similar manner, with each group of influential shareholders making up its own clique.

At the head of the class, we have Assemblyman Adam Gray, Chairman of the Governmental Organization Committee and long-time proponent/sponsor of online poker legislation. He’s like the Senior Class President and, together with his legislative lackeys, make up the smart kids on campus – the Chess Club, if you will – but in the same token, they are kind of easy to bully around.

Next we have the Pechanga Coalition, a group of 7 California tribes that includes the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and Barona Band of Mission Indians, among others. These represents The Jocks, due to their force in numbers and heavy influential weight with legislative matters.

Lastly, there’s The Preppys – the PokerStars Coalition – made up of PokerStars, of course, and three of the state’s largest commercial card clubs, Bicycle, Commerce Club and Hawaiian Gardens, plus two local tribes, the Morongo and San Manuel Bands of Mission Indians. These are the kids with all the brand-name clothes who have as much influence over their classmates as their rich parents do over the school board.

Cliques Bang Head over Online Poker

The Jocks and The Preps have very different ideas of how online poker should be run in California, and they’re pressing the Chess Club to do their legislative bidding. Pechanga wants PokerStars out, PokerStars wants to be in, and Assemblyman Gray wants to sponsor legislation that everyone can agree on.

The impasse has gone on for so many years, it seems untraversable at this point, but according to OnlinePokerReport (OPR) and some unnamed sources, a resolution could finally be on the horizon.

Latest Bill Got Nowhere Fast

Gray’s latest bill, AB 2863, called for ‘bad actors’ – operators who violated the UIGEA after 2006 (i.e. PokerStars) – to be locked out of the market for 5 years, unless they fork over a $20 million dollar fine to squash the timeout. The Jocks didn’t like that idea at all, writing a letter to Gray stating as much.

While they wouldn’t support that plan, they did suggest increasing the penalty to a mandatory 10-year lockout, plus an increased $60 million fee, to be paid after PokerStars’ extensive ‘timeout for misbehavior’ was served.

New Amendments Coming, say Sources

California Online Poker BillOPR said last week that sources confirmed the Pechanga, Agua Caliente and the Barona tribes have “agreed in principle” to support an amended online poker bill from Gray. However, the exact amendments said to have been discussed by Gray and Agua Caliante’s Tribal Chairman Jeff Grubbe haven’t been released. It seems they are waiting on the amended bill to surface before commenting publicly on the matter.

An unidentified source told OPR, “All I can tell you is that it’s different.”

Of course, The Preppys are wholly opposed to any version of Gray’s bill that locks ‘bad actors’ out of the market for years to come, or charges a fine/fee to participate, sooner or later. According to PokerStars’ parent company, Amaya Gaming, such a proposal is in direct violation of the commerce provisions within the US Constitution.

Could It Possibly Work?

The only way an amended online poker bill might have a thread of hope is if members of one Coalition switched sides to support legislation approved by their rivals, and according to OPR, it is a possibility – however slim.

Yet another unnamed source told OPR that the San Manuel may be willing to back the mysterious amendments to AB 2863. A spokesperson for the tribe denied those claims, calling OPR’s “reliable source very unreliable.”

Time is running short, though. For any California online poker bill to pass this year, it must get 2/3 approval of the 54-member Assembly, plus pass the Senate, before August 31.