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Tribes Discuss Internet Poker Future

17 February 2011 by admin

internet-pokerOn Wednesday, representatives from California’s government, tribal casinos, and other gambling-interested parties attended the California Nations Indian Gaming Association conference to discuss the future of gambling in the state. The main area of focus was online poker.

There are two bills passing through the California legislature that would legalize some form of online gambling. Facing that proposition and the changing trends in the industry, this is a crucial time for tribal casinos. California is in worse financial trouble than at any point in its history, and is “desperate for money,” said Senator Joel Anderson, the vice chairman of the Governmental Organization committee. Anderson said that the tribal leaders should be cautious of any negotiations with the state regarding online poker or the Special Distribution Fund, which is a percentage of casino profits that are set aside for local government agencies.

The California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) at this point has opposed the gambling bill proposed by Senator Roderick Wright and has not taken a stance on the bill by Senator Lou Correa. Wright’s bill would allow businesses to bid for three licenses that would allow them to offer all forms of Internet gambling. Eligibility would not be restricted to businesses located within the state. CNIGA doesn’t like the possibility that competitors from outside the state could begin competing with them for casino business if Wright’s bill passes.

Correa’s bill would only legalize online poker and only at a strictly intrastate level. The operators would have to be located within the state, with the tribal governments and card clubs eligible to apply for licenses. Originally the CNIGA opposed any form of online gambling, but Correa’s bill may be a good thing to move on, according to some.

As Jerome Encinas, Director of CNIGA Government Affairs, wisely pointed out, “Blockbuster nearly went out of business because of Netflix.” People like instant gratification and instant access to entertainment. With online casinos and mobile apps already accessible to the iPhone culture, many believe that the tribal casinos must adapt to the online industry in order to stay relevant.

Encinas understands the repercussions of being behind on the technology of the gambling industry. He said that “if we sit on our hands, we’ll lose control.” Allen Lawson, the Chairman of the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians concurred, saying that “if we don’t get on top of it, and understand it, we’re going to lose.”

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