San Manuel Indians Announce Partnership With Pokerstars

PokerStars logoThe San Manuel Band of Mission Indians has announced its intent to join PokerStars’ California online poker coalition, consisting of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the state’s three largest card clubs.

“We are pleased to join this coalition,” said Lynn Valbuena, Chairwoman of the San Manuel tribe. “We are convinced that the various interests must work together if we are to be successful in establishing a well-regulated environment and the best-in-class Internet poker industry for California.”

The move is a major win for PokerStars, who has encountered steadfast opposition from several Golden State tribes, including the powerful Pechanga group. San Manuel was itself a member of the anti-PokerStars faction, and just months ago signed off on a bill which would exclude the online poker giant through the use of bad actor language.

The San Manuel tribe, along with the Commerce Club, the Hawaiian Gardens Casino, the Bicycle Casino and the Morongo Band, will jointly operate a regulated online poker site when and if iGaming legislation is passed in the state.

We’re excited about the momentum and opportunities this new agreement represents in getting legislation passed,” said Morongo chairman Robert Martin. “As tribes come together on this issue, the opportunity for success grows.”

Backroom negotiations heating up

The announcement of the alliance is a strong indicator that deals are being made behind closed doors before the legislative session reconvenes in December. Two online poker bills were scrapped in August, but assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer promised to work through the break to bring California’s gambling principles to a consensus.

While online gambling legislation has been in the works for years in the state, analysts believe that all of the Golden State’s major gambling players are ready to work together and will legalize the industry in 2015.

Guy Templer, PokerStars’ Group Business Director, called the San Manuel tribe a “forward thinking operator” and a “great partner to join our coalition in advocating for the development of an open and well-regulated iPoker market in California.”

PokerStars has fought tooth and nail to shape legislation and open its doors in California. With a population of 38 million, the Golden State is the biggest in the US and could potentially be very lucrative for regulated online poker operators.