James Guill

On Tuesday, a unified online poker bill supported by 13 California tribal nations was submitted to lawmakers. As expected, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians along with the Bicycle Casino, Hawaiian Gardens Casino, Commerce Club and The Rational Group have issued their response.

OnlinePokerReport.com posted the response in its entirety and the main purpose of the statement was to attack the “bad actor clause in the bill.” According to the statement, they “strongly oppose the so-called “bad actor” language that is nothing other than a blatant attempt to provide certain interests with an unfair competitive advantage by arbitrarily locking out trusted iPoker brands. We will vigorously oppose any legislation that includes this language.”

The statement went on to state that the group believes that ” all licensees and operators should meet the highest standards of accountability and suitability.” It is their opinion that the CA Gambling Control Commission and the Attorney General’s Bureau of Gambling Control are best capable of determining suitability.

Taking one final jab, they closed with, “We look forward to working with all stakeholders and with members of the Legislature to craft a final bill that will best serve the interests and needs of all Californians– and not just those who would use the Legislature to protect them from fair competition.”

This response was expected following the release of the unified Tribal bill. It reaffirms the position that the Morongo and their partners have taken from the onset of legalization talks. Now the question is how far that legislators are willing to run with a bad actor clause.

While some believe that the Morongo will not present a major hurdle, others realize the potential legal logjam that could result in a challenge of a bill including a bad actor clause. The best course of action at this point may be some type of mediation between the unified Tribes and the Morongo to see if there is some common ground that can be reached to allow this process to move forward.

It is hard to see the unified Tribes completely backing down from the bad actor clause unless there are some concessions made to level the playing field. PokerStars is almost guaranteed to become the #1 site in the state once they are allowed to enter.

The NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball all use some form of revenue sharing to help support small-market teams. Perhaps a similar approach to California online poker should be examined. The major sites like PokerStars would pay a portion of total profits to help support the smaller licensed sites. Such an agreement would allow the smaller tribes to benefit even if PokerStars completely dominated the market.

Time is running out on legalizing the game in 2014, but progress is being made despite the disagreements. Once the bad actor hurdle has been cleared, it should just be a matter of paperwork and red tape. Granted, that hurdle looks massive at this time. In the end, there is too much money to be made from online poker to allow that hurdle to remain a roadblock to legalization.