OPC Recap: Pechanga Could Join Forces with PokerStars; Tribal Casino Revenue Continues to Grow

PokerStars logoIn an article penned for OnlinePokerReport, California tribal gaming expert Dave Palermo has reported that a powerful coalition led by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians might be willing to ally with PokerStars if it would keep the horseracing tracks from entering the industry.

Tribal officials met last week in San Diego and suggested that the union of PokerStars, card rooms, the Pechanga, and six other tribes would be enough to prevent the tracks from going online. “If all the tribes got together with PokerStars … I’d like to see any legislator try to get in front of that train,” said a tribal leader who wished to remain anonymous.

The Pechanga group had previously opposed PokerStars and called for bad actor language which would preclude the gaming giant from opening up shop in California. But it seems their opposition to the tracks trumps their objections to PokerStars. On the subject of bad actor clauses, one tribal official told Palermo, “we can work all that out.”

Opponents of the tracks claim that allowing those operators to receive an iPoker license would violate the gambling compact which the tribes have with the state. Some officials have floated the idea of giving the tracks a piece of the online gambling pie in the form of a subsidy, but horseracing operators have objected, claiming that the legislation could change at any time in the future.

Even alone, the tracks still pose a problem to those hoping to exclude the industry. “If I’m a legislator and I have a breeding farm in my district, or a race track, or any number of the 50,000 agricultural and union employees… I don’t think you’re going to get 2/3rds of the legislators to ignore the racing industry’s right to this new form of gaming just because a few wealthy tribes want it that way,” said lobbyists Robyn Black.

With tribes signaling a willingness to work with PokerStars, however, online poker in California might still have a chance this year.

Tribal Casino Revenue Grows for Third Straight Year

According to a report by economist Alan Meister, Indian gaming in California surpassed 2012 revenues, taking in a total of $7 billion in 2013.

“Is the third straight year of growth,” said Meister in his report. While the bump was less than a half percent up from 2012, the figure is a welcome indicator and puts California ahead of all other states in regards to tribal casino revenue.

Profits could prove to be even higher in 2014, as the state’s largest gambling operation, the Gratin Resort Casino, had only opened in November of the previous year.

Revenue figures for tribal casinos are not easily obtained, and Meister relied on a variety of sources including public data, confidential information and estimates to piece together his report.