Today’s Hearing a Barometer for California Online Poker

sealofCaliforniaA hearing slated to take place in front of the California Assembly Governmental Organization Committee on Wednesday afternoon should provide a clear picture of online poker’s chances in 2015.

View the full agenda here.

The hearing is slated to take place at 1:30 PM PST (4:30 PM on the East Coast) and will be chaired by Assemblyman Adam Gray, whose AB 431 has already passed the Assembly GO Committee and Appropriations Committee.

Unlike other hearings that have tiptoed around the key contentious issues plaguing the state, bad actor clauses and the role of racetracks, these issues will be on full display Wednesday afternoon.

These two topics will likely be explored in depth during the following panels:

  • Suitability Standards for Licensure: What suitability standards should be considered in an iPoker framework bill to deem a licensee eligible for licensure?
  • Horse Racing’s Eligibility: Should California’s Horse Racing Industry be included as an eligible licensee in an iPoker framework bill?

Furthermore, the witnesses that will be testifying encompass every major stakeholder in the state, along with several other very interested parties.

Among the tribal leaders who will offer testimony:

  • Robert Martin, Chairman, Morongo Band of Mission Indians
  • Jeff L. Grubbe, Chairman, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians
  • Lynn “Nay” Valbuena, Chairwoman, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians
  • Marc Macarro, Chairman, Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians

Also in attendance and offering testimony will be:

  • David Fried, Chief Counsel, California Grand Casino
  • Eric Hollreiser, Head of Corporate Communications, Amaya Inc.
  • Keith Sharp, General Counsel to Hawaiian Gardens Casino and iPoker Counsel to Commerce Casino and Bicycle Casino
  • John Pappas, Executive Director, Poker Players Alliance
  • Robert Uithoven, Board Member, Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling

What to expect from the two main factions

Thus far the Pechanga tribe and its allies have taken an extremely hard-line approach calling for the exclusion of PokerStars and racing from any online poker bill. Don’t expect this to change.

However, the Pechanga coalition has fractured over the past year, with San Manuel joining the PokerStars/Morongo side. Three other tribes, Rincon, Pala, and United Auburn splintered off as well, staking out their own position which is almost in complete agreement with the PokerStars/Morongo stance.

Another blow to the Pechanga coalition was Caesars Entertainment’s decision to no longer support bad actor clauses, and teaming up with PokerStars to fight for continued legalization across the U.S.

This, along with Pechanga’s refusal to budge on either issue, has led to several stakeholders on the other side threatening to challenge Pechanga’s political clout. We may hear more of this rhetoric at today’s hearing, considering the Pechanga coalition appears quite outnumbered on the panels.

All that being said, even though the Pechanga coalition has fractured, so long as the coalition is led by Pechanga they are essentially the 1990’s Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan.

What to expect from CSIG

We’ll also hear from the Poker Players Alliance and Sheldon Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, which should provide us with a better understanding of how influential Adelson and company have been behind the scenes in Sacramento.

What to expect from card rooms

This hearing will also give the state’s smaller card rooms a chance to go on the record through the testimony of David Fried. Up until now the state’s smaller card rooms have lacked a consensus and haven’t made it clear where they stand on bad actor clauses.

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