California Tribes Propose Internet Poker Bill

California has long been a state to watch as online poker legislation is considered in an increasingly long list of states across the nation. Being the most populous state in the United States, were California to regulate access to real-money online poker games, it would undoubtedly immediately represent a major slice of the US online poker market.

Divergent Interests Present a Difficult Path for Legislation

Many attempts to get such legislation off the ground, however, have failed due in no small part to the Golden State’s powerful tribal gaming interests, which have long pursued their own agenda when it comes to any form of gaming expansion in the state. And because there are numerous tribes, there are often divergent concerns among California’s native population and between the varying tribes.

Now, a group of eight California tribes have banded together to put forward new online poker legislation. The draft bill calls for the regulation of online poker only and would not permit any other types of Internet wagering. Under the proposed bill, just who would be eligible for an online poker license would also be quite restrictive. Licenses would only be considered for tribes in addition to existing land-based card rooms that have been in business for more than five years in the state.

The bill would also put in place a so-called “bad actor” clause, which in this case would prevent any entity that offered any sort of online gambling before the passage of the law from entering the California online poker market. The group of tribes also seeks to criminalize play on unregulated online poker sites, though this infraction would only be a misdemeanor under the draft measure.

Tribes Come Together to Protect Their Interests

In a letter released earlier this week, a group of tribal leaders explained their reasoning for drafting their own legislation. Clearly feeling that their position in California’s potentially lucrative online poker market may be threatened should legislation be proposed that runs counter to their interests, the elders felt that the timing is now right for their bill.

An excerpt from the letter explains, “Fundamentally, we felt it was important for the elected leaders of tribal governments to come together and identify both challenges and solutions presented by Internet poker. Reacting to proposals by the state and commercial interests was not the best way to arrive at a set of  principles and policies that protects the rights of our children, grandchildren, and future generations. Indian Country simply cannot afford to get this policy wrong and jeopardize voter-sanctioned gaming rights.”

No doubt the tribes, and other California gambling enterprises, are feeling the pressure posed by their neighbor to the east, Nevada, which earlier this month launched Ultimate Poker, the first regulated real-money online poker room in the nation.  While other West Coast states like Oregon and Washington are unlikely to pass online wagering legislation any time in the near future, certainly California recognizes that residents may be lured across the borders to place such wagers in the Silver State.

About Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller has been an online writer for 14 years. He worked for Small World Marketing for a decade, where he covered topics like gaming, sports, movies, and how-to guides. Since 2014, he has blogged about US and international gambling news on,, and

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