Divisions amongst Tribes Only Deepen after Weekend Gaming Conference
While the news that Caesars would no longer block PokerStars from entering the California online poker market was well received by iGaming proponents, tribal gambling expert Dave Palermo suggests that the chances of a successful bill being passed this year is as unlikely as ever, if not more so.
Officials from several tribes met this weekend at the Western Indian Gaming Association conference, where it was hoped that the groups could come to an agreement on issues pertaining to online gambling. But as Palermo highlighted, the event only seemed to deepen the rifts between the tribes.
On Friday, Caesars, along with three tribes, penned a letter to Assemblymen Mike Gatto and Reginald Jones-Sawyer, recommending that the bad actor language which would preclude PokerStars from setting up shop in California be scrapped.
Tribal officials from the Pechanga and Agua Caliente bands expressed outrage that their colleagues had made such an important decision without them. “This was an ambush, plain and simple, under the presence of consensus building,” a tribal official said.
“Unfortunately, the letter, which tribes did not know of until arriving at the meeting, effectively capitulates on principles of great importance for tribal rights and future tribal generations,” said an official from the Macarro group. “The ploy was disingenuous and disrespectful toward most tribes attending today’s meeting. Clearly we have a long way to go resolve the outstanding issues.”
Pechanga and Agua Caliente strongly oppose the suggestion to dilute the bad actor clause in California iGaming legislation. They also believe that allowing horseracing tracks to be involved in the industry erodes their exclusive right to offer casino gambling in the Golden State.
Palermo says that without Pechanga and Agua Caliente on board, Jones-Sawyer’s bill will be dead in the water. “Without Pechanga, there will be no bill,” said a state official. He added that to block a bill requiring two thirds of the vote would not be hard. “Without Pechanga and Agua on board, it’s going to be tough sledding,” said another official.
Mike Gatto said that he welcomed the suggestions from the Caesars coalition, but made it clear that he did not endorse it. “This is exactly what is supposed to happen in the legislative process,” he said. “People who have an interest are supposed to submit their comments on how we can improve any legislation.”
Gatto’s AB 9 was rejected by PokerStars and the Poker Players Alliance for its bad actor language which would prohibit the online gaming giant from operating in the state.