California Tribes Face Reality of Online Poker Legislation

For years, many Native American tribes in California have fought tooth and nail against the legalization of online poker, fearful that allowing internet gambling would affect their own gambling revenues.  However, major breakthroughs on the legal landscape in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware have seen Indian tribes joining forces to discuss how to make online poker not only a reality in the state but also a source of revenue for them.

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Chairman Mark Macarro of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians recently told the media that Native American tribes in the California region were ready “to begin working with state legislators” to build a framework for legal and regulated online poker. Mark Macarro added that there has been a definite change of opinion among tribes were were previously opposed to the idea of online poker.

One of the most influential bodies to promote the idea of online poker in California was dissolved last year after many years of attempts failed to bear fruit.  COPA, which stands for California Online Poker Association, was made up of representatives of tribes such as San Manuel Band and Morongo Band of Mission Indians who have traditionally fought for changes in California’s law to allow a regulated form of online poker.  COPA, made up of over 60 poker rooms and Indian tribes, aimed to ensure that all its members received their share of anticipated revenue from online poker.  In 2012, after the COPA supported Senate Bill 1463 failed to make any progress in California, the association dissolved.

Should a group such as COPA be formed once more (by the same tribes or others), it would need to align its vision with that of an online poker measure which could be making progress through legal channels right now.  Senator Wayne Wright’s SB 51 also calls for online poker in California, but includes the state’s horse racetracks in the mix.  COPA was always adamant that these racetracks should not be included in any online poker scheme introduced in California.



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