The latest in a long line of attempts to legalize online poker in California died in the state’s Assembly Wednesday as competing groups within the gambling industry continue to jostle for power in the $1 billion market.
The repeated attempts to legalize what could be very lucrative for both the state and current casino operators reportedly comes down to a turf battle between Native American tribes and major online poker sites.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the bill put forward by Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) would have granted seven-year internet poker licenses to poker parlors and 60 Native American tribes that run casinos, following background checks by the state’s Department of Justice. Poker parlors are already legal in California, but the online version of the game is not.
The bill, named AB 2863 and the 11th attempt to legalize online poker in the state in the last eight years, couldn’t garner support from two-thirds of the state assembly and was not put up for a vote in the final legislative session of the year.
Though the bill would have allowed entrance into an ever lucrative and growing market, the LA Times reported a divide among Native American tribes that control casinos in the state led to the law’s demise.
The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, and the Barona Band of Mission Indians were part of a seven-tribe group that supported the bill, but only recently.
The tribes are specifically concerned about top international poker sites like Amaya cutting into their business, but they joined the bill’s coalition after a provision was added that would’ve barred such sites from operating for at least five years, according to the LA Times.
However, a competing group made of up the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Commerce Casino, Hawaiian Gardens Casino, and Bicycle Casino reportedly planned to work with PokerStars and its parent company Amaya on the construction of a site for California.
“AB 2863 met the same fate of past measures because opponents once again attempted to unconstitutionally limit competition by effectively barring one operator in perpetuity from the California marketplace,” Morongo Tribal Chairman Robert Martin told the LA Times.
Gray, who’s also championed a daily fantasy sports bill in the Assembly, wouldn’t comment on the setback but last week stressed the importance of the bill in a letter published by his district’s Modesto Bee.
“We can continue to endure the status quo, where Internet gambling goes unregulated, untaxed and where no consumer protections exist, or we can try to bring some sense of order to the entire gambling industry in the state,” he wrote.
According to The Sacramento Bee, the legal gambling industry has grown exponentially in California in the last three decades and it already produces roughly $20 billion in annual revenues.