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New California poker Bill sparks furious response

8th December 2010 1:48 pm GMT

California state Senator Lou Correa is sponsoring a new bill to legalise internet poker in California but lobby groups are angry about its content.

Senate Bill 40 is supported by two Indian tribes but the vast majority of Indian gaming tribes and other lobby groups are likely to oppose the legislation.

“It violates all procurement law,” said a well-placed source.  “Procurement law prohibits you from having a ‘no bid’ contract of this type. You would basically have to rewrite state procurement law to allow an entity to be handed a contract like this in statute without a competitive bid.”

The bill would allow certain tribes to run online intrastate poker with a percentage of revenues channelled back to the State.

The legislation is backed by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, which operates a casino in San Bernardino County, and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, which has a casino in Cabazon but other tribes have already voiced their concerns to Correa. They have announced a coalition called the California Online Poker Association.

Former California State Senator Lloyd Levine told Gaming Intelligence on Monday (December 6) that Poker Voters of America had found a legislator to sponsor a new bill but the Morongo and San Manuel tribes appear to have got in first. Levine introduced a bill last year, which failed in the face of opposition from California’s many vested gaming interests.

Levine said that he believed that education efforts had won over the majority of tribes and other groups to the benefits of a bill but that was before this one was introduced at the start of the 2011-2012 legislative session.

Correa’s bill will be vehemently opposed by some lobbyists, who believe it will hand an online monopoly to certain tribes. It follows Senator Rod Wright’s bill, which proposed three operators in the state but stalled in committee in June. Wright has since been indicted on fraud charges.

“They are over-engineering things in California,” said another source. “There are too many arguments about who will get a slice of the pie before the pie is even cooked.”

As California’s gaming interests squabble about the rights and wrongs of various bills, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid is continuing to try and overturn UIGEA at a federal level. However the federal effort is rated unlikely in the face of opposition from Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyle, incoming House Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus, and incoming House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp.

According to analysts FBR Capital Markets: “Based upon the structure of Congress, the person with the most power to influence the outcome during the lame duck session is Senator Kyle. It is our understanding there has been a concerted effort to work directly with Senator Kyle to see what, if anything, he may be willing to support/what provisions could be added to temper his opposition.”

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