James Guill

The Indian Country Online 2013 Congress convened at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula on Monday and Tuesday to discuss online poker legalization options for the state of California. At present, there are three options being circulated for legalizing the game in the state with SB 678 the primary bill floating through the state legislature.

A large portion of the discussion over the two days focused on the feasibility of online sites, operating costs, and how to draw customers to the sites. Some of the topics discussed included whether to stick with a single platform or to have open platforms for the sites. While open platforms offer more flexibility, it was felt that sites would miss out on some of the unique features that a single provider would provide.

Also, there was a good deal of discussion on making gaming sites accessible via mobile devices. One example given of the importance of servicing mobile clients was Fanduel.com. The highly successful fantasy sports betting site boasts that over half of their traffic is driven by mobile devices. Considering the growth of mobile devices in recent years, any site wishing to offer iPoker or iGaming should have a mobile component.

Profitability for US online poker operators could prove to be slim with a 15 percent profit margin estimated for the sites that are “well managed.” Of the cost associated with operating a site, marketing and promotional costs for the sites were discussed as the largest expenses that sites can expect and not licensing or platform fees.

Amaya Gaming’s CEO David Baazov believes “Leveraging existing brick-and-mortar customers to online or mobile will be the key” to success for the California market. In addition, he stressed that he believed that “Igaming will be hugely profitable for tribal gaming and commercial casinos.”

As expected, much debate was held to the benefits of state legalization as opposed to federal legislation. Some tribes, including the Pechanga, are interested in keeping online poker as “California only” while others are open to the option of federal legislation. It was agreed that, at present, no federal online poker bill is workable for tribal interests.

Scott Scepaniak, the Vice President of Compliance for the Mystic Lake Casino, stated that he believes that online gaming is a “Field of Dreams” and that “building it doesn’t mean they’ll come.”

Richard Schuetz, Commissioner of the California Gambling Control Commission did tell those in attendance that the CGCC is ready to regulate online poker or iGaming whenever the issue is finally brought to a vote and legalized. It is now just a matter of getting a bill through the state legislature.

The following are some of the important points to take away from the conference






SourcesCaGamingLawyer & VictorRocha1