Oppose California Online Poker Legislation

While many of California’s biggest poker rooms and Indian casinos have come out in support of legalizing online poker in the state, there have been some holdouts who have opposed such measures.

One such group is the California Tribal Business Alliance, or CTBA. This group of three tribes represents the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians, the Pala Band of Mission Indians, and the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians. All three of these tribes operate casinos in California.

While the California Online Poker Association – COPA – has also refused to endorse SB 45, the two groups are split on SB 40, with CTBA having several issues with the more popular of the two online gambling bills.

CTBA claims that the huge charges that are required up front to set up an online poker site under SB 40 – up to $55 million in the latest version o the bill – are designed to shut some of the state’s Native American tribes out of the online poker market. While the major poker rooms and tribes that make up the COPA coalition may be able to afford such fees – either individually, or by banding together to run sites – other tribes, such as those in CTBA, would not be able to participate. Because of this, CTBA has asked for any action on SB 40 to be delayed while their tribes and others could help shape the legislation, in hopes of creating a more level playing field for all parties interested in operating online poker sites. The CTBA has also voiced concerns that due to tax laws, tribal groups may be forced to pay state taxes on their profits, something they are normally exempt from under federal law.

In the case of SB 45, nearly all California tribal groups and card rooms have voiced concerns over several provisions in the bill. Many tribes that run casinos in the state worry about the potential legalization of online casino games, due to fears that allowing players to play blackjack, slots and other games at home could drive customers away from their casinos. The more significant concern, however, are aspects of the bill that would open up bidding for the state’s online gambling hubs to any qualified operator – not just those based in California. This would allow major casino interests in Las Vegas to compete for licenses, as well as overseas companies, who might have a leg up thanks to their existing online gambling sites.

In addition to card rooms and tribes, other interest groups have come out against both California online gambling bills. Many worry that the expansion of gambling will increase the number of problem gamblers in California. Others maintain that the economic benefits of online gambling are overstated; in the eyes of some, expanded gambling is the equivalent of a tax on the poor.