California horse racing trackCalifornia’s Tribes Resigned to Working with Horse Tracks On Online Poker Bill

According to Robyn Black, lobbyist for the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association, progress is quickly being made between the state’s principal gambling players which will lead to an iPoker bill being passed next year.

“We’ve been communicating with tribes and I think at some point in 2015 we’re actually going to see one of these bills move, and I expect horse racing to be a part of that,” Black told PokerNews. “It’s probably going to happen in 2015, or it isn’t going to happen.”

Yet earlier in the year, it seemed that the tribes would block out horse racing operators altogether. In June, several of the most powerful tribes in the state announced that they had come to a consensus on the terms of potential legislation. They were also very influential in drafting the bills introduced by Lou Correa and Reginald Jones-Sawyer, which did not include horse racing.

While the bills made their way through the general assembly, the horse tracks didn’t put up much of a fight, leaving the tribes to believe that they would have the potentially lucrative market to themselves. But proving that they still wield plenty of influence in the state government, horse racing execs were able to help kill the bills off completely. In August, Jones-Sawyer specifically mentioning the industry as a point of contention which caused him to table the legislation.

After losing that battle, analysts say that the tribes have become resigned to working out a deal with the tracks. “Some tribes remain reluctant but I think a growing number of tribal interests realize that they will not get Internet poker in California until they allow horse racing,” said Black. “There are a number of tribes that have expressed to me that they are perfectly comfortable with horse racing being included, but there remain a few powerful tribes that still don’t want to see horse racing included.”

Black believes that if an online poker bill excluding the tracks were to be passed, the industry wouldn’t waste time in bringing a lawsuit in opposition. “There is no legal basis to keep horse tracks out,” she said. “That’s just the way the tribes want it. To want to artificially limit competition in the Internet poker space because we haven’t had poker would be the same as us saying we have exclusivity over the Internet so you can’t be on the Internet.”

Is the fight against horse tracks even worth it?

For all the heavy-handed tactics which the tribes have used to keep out the racing industry, a recent report issued by Morgan Stanley may show that their fears are unfounded. In the analysis, the financial giant predicts that online poker will be legalized in California in 2015, and anticipates that competition from the horse racing industry wouldn’t be of much significance.

“There has been a recent push to add the horse racing tracks onto any poker legislation, and given the track’s strong political ties, this could be essential in getting a bill passed,” it said. “We don’t see the horse tracks as a major share winner so don’t see why they wouldn’t be allowed in.”