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Opinion: Amaya and co. won’t get California i-poker without help

The

California
coalition of Amaya Gaming, two Indian tribes and three card rooms campaigning to legalise online poker in California is unlikely to achieve its aims alone, according to a tribal gaming expert.

A bill seeking to legalise i-poker in the state was removed from a Governmental Organization Committee hearing earlier this month.

Californians for Responsible iPoker includes Amaya, tribes the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, as well as card rooms the Commerce Casino, the Bicycle Hotel & Casino and Hawaiian Gardens Casino.

Victor Rocha, owner and editor of tribal gaming resource Pechanga.net, told Gambling Insider he does not see the coalition being able to do enough to change the current law without support.

Rocha said: “They’ve been trying a while and good luck. I still don’t feel they’ve got the critical mass to move things forward on their own. That’s an incredible coalition, but look at what they’re doing. They’re always on the defensive. I don’t think they can get it done by themselves.”
It’s like a comedy where five people all head to the exit and get stuck in the doorway.Victor Rocha


Various bills have attempted to push i-gaming legislation through in the state, and while Reginald Jones-Sawyer’s AB 167 was pulled from the GO Committee hearing, GO Committee chairman Adam Gray’s AB 431 passed a GO Committee vote in April and an Assembly Appropriations Committee vote in May, but progress on that bill stalled.

AB 1437, a bill that would regulate daily fantasy sports (DFS) in the state, was passed at the same hearing that AB 167 was pulled from.

Rocha said: “There are a lot of people that are trying to be players with i-gaming and there doesn’t seem to be a protocol about how to get this thing done. It’s like a comedy where five people all head to the exit and get stuck in the doorway. I think the politics behind it all is what we’re watching play out. Just because i-gaming was ahead of it, DFS all of a sudden becomes the darling and everybody runs to that instead.”

While Rocha sees DFS as an obstacle to regulating online poker, he estimates things could change when Amaya launches its PokerStars and Full Tilt brands in New Jersey, as it plans to do in the first half of this year.

“DFS seems to have come and taken the wind out of the sails of i-poker,” he said. “It’s still moving but DFS is now opening up questions that i-gaming was asking, such as whether this a violation of the compact. You see them being tied together there, even though people don’t want that to happen. Once Amaya get going in New Jersey, then the optics of it will change. I think that changes the playing field a little bit, but I’m not sure that it’s going to be enough.”
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