PokerStars Coalition Sends Letter of Support for AB 2863, Adds New Member

A PokerStars aligned coalition has rallied behind bill AB 2863, legislation which would legalize iPoker while sending a tidy subsidy to the horseracing industry. Now, the group has sent a letter of endorsement to the bill’s author, Adam Gray, which reveals that another Indian tribe has thrown their weight behind PokerStars and the new legislation.

The letter, brought to light by OnlinePokerReport, praises AB 2863, and was signed by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, and the Commerce, Hawaiian Gardens and Bicycle Casino card rooms. A new group, the United Auburn Indian Community, has also signed on to the missive, signaling its intent to work with its new partners.

The statement is the third letter of support for the bill, which has also received the backing of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association and the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians. The letter is hopeful that the state’s various gambling stakeholders can come to an agreement and finally pass iPoker legislation.

Resolving Differences

“After eight years of discussion, very few issues remain outstanding,” said Lynn Valbuena, chairwoman of the San Manuel tribe, in its own letter to Assemblyman Gray. We are optimistic that by working together we can get an iPoker bill passed this year.”

The PokerStars letter also highlighted a productive meeting between the tribes and Gray, who chairs the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee.

“Tribal members were particularly optimistic after a February 11 meeting with [Gray], GO Vice Chair Eric Linder and tribal leaders from both sides of the iPoker debate in which everyone present agreed to move forward with iPoker legislation and begin an inclusive and transparent process that invited participation from all stakeholders,” the letter read.

It’s little wonder why AB 2863 has the backing of PokerStars, as the bill does not contain an obvious “bad actor” clause. The language would seemingly allow the iGaming giant to set up shop in the state. The bill would also prohibit the horseracing industry from participating in the iPoker market. Instead, racing would receive a generous subsidy of up to $60 million a year.

Pechanga Stands in the Way

Not everyone is so gung ho about Gray’s bill, however. The powerful Pechanga coalition has long opposed PokerStars’ entry into the state and is bitterly opposed to allowing horseracing tracks to offer online poker. The tribe believes that to do so would be to violate the gambling exclusivity contract they have with the state.

With its olive branch to horseracing, AB 2863 has reinvigorated the fight to legalize online poker in California. In the letter, the coalition “reiterated its commitment to putting in the hours and time necessary to establish the framework for a vibrant, competitive marketplace this year, one that provides superior consumer protections, requires strict oversight and regulation of licenses and service providers, and ensures that the state receives a reasonable return.”