oker Voters president Melanie Brenner confirmed to eGaming Review that the bill currently earmarked for sponsorship by Assemblyman Jerry Hill will be a poker-only version of Senator Rod Wright’s bill introduced last year. “The bill is different from Wright’s bill, it has taken out limits on the number of [operating] hubs, and introduces a further income distribution component, granting further benefits to stakeholders such as the tribes.”
Brenner also admitted that the introduction of the other two bills last month, the first on behalf of the Morongo Tribe-led California Online Poker Association (COPA) by California Senator Louis Correa, and Wright’s reintroduction of his own bill shortly afterwards, had taken the lobby group by surprise. “We had an agreement [with the Morongo] that if they were going to do something at least let us know, and they didn’t do that”, said Brenner.
Poker Voters said in Wednesday’s statement announcing its appointment of former Morongo spokesman Patrick Dorinson as its new executive director that COPA’s advocacy of legislation “to grant COPA members an exclusive monopoly contract to operate online poker in California….would exclude participation by some of the state’s largest gaming tribes and nearly a hundred licensed card clubs.”
“Correa’s bill will not go anywhere. As far as Rod Wright’s bill goes, nobody knew that would happen. He put the bill in as a back-up, to make the Morongo understand they won’t get what they want, to dominate [online poker] in California,” Brenner added.
Wright’s bill stalled in Committee in June last year amid opposition from the Morongo and card clubs, including the Commerce Casino and the Hollywood Park Casino, ostensibly because it would have allowed offshore poker sites and Las Vegas casinos to run web gambling in California.
Brenner however said that the increasingly urgent need for the State to “get this done”, given the us$ 25 billion budget deficit it was set to face by the end of the current financial year in April, would provide further impetus for the Morongo and other COPA members to get behind the Poker Voters’ bill. “I feel they will be going along, as they are not going to get what they want, they are outnumbered now. They have accepted they will have to enter a contracted RFP process like everyone else.”
Brenner added that key California gaming tribes whose support for online poker in the State had previously been in question, were now in support of the legalisation framework laid out within its bill. “The Pechenga [Band of Luiseno Indians] and [Agua] Caliente [Band of Cahuilla Indians], whose opposition was a problem in the past, are now on board and want to make it happen”, Brenner told eGR.
The Poker Voters chief added that they also intended to seek an alternative sponsor for the bill in legislature, preferably in the upper house. “Our bill is in the Assembly, introduced by Jerry Hill. We are looking for a different sponsor, someone in the Senate who will be more of a champion of it.”