“California Online Poker Bill Must Include Horse Racing”, Says John Pappas
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Gambling professionals are standing by the notion that California will be the next to regulate and legalize online poker. Native Indian tribes gathered to form a coalition in order to hasten the legislation of online poker. Poker Players Alliance (PPA) director, John Pappas said in a recent statement that, the regulation and legalization of online poker may be difficult to attain in California if they leave out horse racing tracks.

At the moment, California is dealing with two online poker legislation issues, of which both don’t include horse racing as an online poker operation. Native California tribes have always demanded the non-inclusion of horse tracks in every aspect of legalized online poker.

Quite interesting, it’s not all Native American tribes that joined the coalition to request the introduction of online poker. The Morongo Band of Mission Indians took sides and partnered with the Bicycle Casino, Hawaiian Gardens, PokerStars and the Commerce Casino, all of which are California-based card rooms. None of these card rooms showed interest in supporting horse racing tracks, an indication that they don’t want competition.

Senator Rod Wright had on the contrary introduced legislation that would allow horse racing tracks to also conduct online poker operations. However with Wright out of position, suspended for falsifying information during the 2008 election, no one will continue where he left off. With this being the scenario, California may have lost their most significant supporter.

Pappas, who spoke at the recent Global iGaming Summit and Expo, in San Francisco voiced his view that the major impeding factors for the legalization of online poker in California was the idea of preventing the participation of horse racing tracks. Another member of the horse racing industry in California also expressed concern, saying that the horse racing industry still had influential and powerful associates in both the Senate and house of assembly, and that the bill wouldn’t be accepted without including horse racing. At the same time, another member of the Native tribes opposed the statement saying that horse racing tracks should not be allowed in online poker in a saga known as “bad actor clause.”

However interestingly enough, the same card rooms, which had initially supported the exclusion of horse racing tracks in online poker were starting to change their stance toward the notion. A reason for this could have been the purchase of PokerStars by Amaya Gaming; of which the latter was the major sponsor of the Expo held in San Francisco.

Online poker services could soon be legalized in the state of California as the most dominant tribes agreed to the drafting of the bill.

With the deadline to legalizing online poker looming, two issues still remain unresolved. As the legislative session comes to end, law makers may need to push a couple more hours over-time if at all they are to join the likes of Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada who’ve legalized online poker. This is how the matter can be resolved to legalize it:

The online poker debacle in California has been a conflict over the bad actor clause, which appears in both legislations. If the opposing sides fail to reach a consensus, a vote will never be accomplished.

The bad actor clause had been constitutionally challenged by Laurence Tribe, a legal expert. Tribe said the bad actor clause cannot hold up in constitutional challenge because it acts as the bill of attainder against PokerStars.

Nelson Rose, another legal expert objected saying the bad actor clause did not apply as a bill of attainder against PokerStars because it doesn’t mention them by name. He said the issue over online poker was a matter of “state police power,” not something the constitution could determine.

The recent purchase of the Rational Group by Amaya Group could also carve a way for both entities to reach a compromise. Although PokerStars – partly purchased by Amaya, does qualify as a “stained asset” according to the bad actor clause, their brand name is not necessarily needed for online poker services. Amaya could secure a license and create a different platform, or use PokerStars’ resources.

The Horse Racing tracks Issue Has to be Settled 

According to the proposed legislative bills, horse racing tracks in California would be prohibited from providing online poker services. With the bad actor clause having been the issue of attention over the last several months, the matter has not been deeply explored, and the inability of concerned parties to come up with an effective solution may lead to a legal deadlock.

Unless the horse racing tracks and the bad actor issue can reach some form of agreement, it may take a while before the bill is passed. August 22 is the deadline for lawmakers to amend bills before the legislative session comes to end.