There’s a well-know and beloved scene in the movie Braveheart where William Wallace tells his compatriots he’s going to “pick a fight,” and proceeds to make such farfetched and inflammatory demands on the English army envoys (have your commander put his head between his legs and kiss his own arse) that the response is a foregone conclusion.
In a recent column I stated my belief that the Pechanga coalition would accept nothing short of total surrender, but based on a letter dated June 29 to the California legislature, it seems the group, which now numbers seven tribes, is willing to make some concessions.
In its letter the coalition stops short of requiring total surrender when it comes to so-called bad actors, but not very far from it.
What AB 2863 says and what Pechanga wants
The current version of AB 2863 calls for all online poker sites that operated in California after December 31, 2006 to sit out for a period of two years, or make one-time payment of $20 million.
Pechanga’s counterproposal goes quite a bit beyond this. Pechanga and its allies are calling for a mandatory 10-year exclusion, AND a $60 million one-time payment at the conclusion of that period.
This is, quite frankly, the California online poker equivalent of William Wallace asking the English commander to kiss his own arse.
There hasn’t been an official response to Pechanga’s proposed amendment, and I wouldn’t expect one, as the proposal is almost assuredly a complete nonstarter for the other side.
For its part, Pechanga is intimating that refusal would lead to the offer being withdrawn and at least some members of the coalition reverting back to their previous position of permanent exclusion from the market:
“Regrettably, if these amendments are not accepted, we must continue to strongly oppose further movement of AB 2863. Not all members of the Coalition are moved to compromise and depart from the longstanding principle of disqualifying offshore websites and assets that took illegal bets. Accordingly, if these proposed amendments are rejected, we anticipate some will seek what they believe to be more appropriate protections for Californians – a ban on “bad actors” and “tainted assets” in the Internet poker industry.”
Full compliance doesn’t guarantee support
As onerous as the demands are, the coalition’s letter also leaves it a lot of wiggle room to continue to oppose AB 2863 in the unlikely event their demands are accepted.
The coalition letter makes it clear that complete acceptance of this proposal would simply end its current opposition, and doesn’t necessarily mean the group would support AB 2863:
“… we write to provide you with amendments on the suitability language that, if accepted in their entirety, would not only remove our opposition, but would take us closer to a support if amended position on the measure.”
The letter later hints at some other issues the coalition still has with the bill:
“Again, with acceptance of our attached suitability amendments we would be pleased to continue to work with you to refine financial and technical language to support and move AB 2863 forward.”
Essentially, the Pechanga coalition is saying that the suitability issue is only one of many issues it has with the bill.
PokerStars responded on Thursday with the following statement from Amaya’s VP of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser:
It is a shame that obstructionist forces continue to block the passage of a pro-consumer online poker bill in California. We finally have real progress this year, with the majority of gaming tribes supporting the legislation, along with the AFL-CIO, SEIU,Teamsters, horse racing tracks, card rooms and gaming operators.
Unfortunately, a recent amendment to AB 2863 is unconstitutional and our opponents seem intent to expand upon that flawed and unconstitutional language.
What it means going forward
The counteroffer by Pechanga isn’t entirely bad news for online poker supporters, as it finally pins the group down on a specific policy position, and suggests that there is some room for compromise on this issue, just as there seems to have been with the horseracing industry.
After making such a demand, it’s hard for the group to call future, lesser offers a “get out of jail free card” or a way for PokerStars to buy its freedom (something it said of AB 2863’s calls for a two-year exclusionary period in lieu of a payment of $20 million). Essentially, the Pechanga coalition has asked for the same thing, only with a much stiffer penalty.
But as the group itself states in the letter, it is a concession:
“We note that this represents a significant concession from our longstanding position of permanent disqualification of assets used in illegal activities and provides a pathway for offshore service providers to access the California market.”
Bottom line: It doesn’t appear the Pechanga coalition is going to be supporting an online poker bill anytime in the foreseeable future, regardless of what concessions it receives.