Today bwin.Party announced a formal agreement with the United Auburn Indian Community (UAIC) to provide online poker to the residents of California if intrastate legislation is enacted. The UAIC is a federally recognized Californian Indian tribe that currently owns and runs the Thunder Valley Casino Resort, which is near Sacramento, California.
This partnership is important for both parties, as each brings a significant amount to the table. Bwin.Party is a leader in the online poker industry. They have quality software and have many years of experience in the virtual poker market. The UAIC’s tribal status would allow them to obtain the necessary licenses to operate an online poker operation within the state of California under the currently proposed legislation. Their agreement is for a 10-year term, beginning on the date that they launch their online poker operation.
The currently proposed California online poker bill (SB 1463) was introduced in February, and is still waiting for its first committee hearing. There has already been some controversy over this bill, mainly by the Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations (TASIN). They are “strongly opposed” to the bill because they fear it will negatively affect the “unique government-to-government relationship between the State and California’s tribal governments”. By this they mean that they worry that the exclusive provisions for the running of poker games in brick and mortar casinos by tribes in California may not carry over into the online arena. Under the wording of SB 1463, online licenses would not be limited to only those groups who are already authorized to offer poker games in their brick and mortar establishments.
Even if bill SB 1463 does pass, there will be no immediate online poker for Californians, due to current federal law. However, the approval of SB 1463 could encourage changes in federal law. At the very least, it would prepare the state for online poker by already having licensing laws in place if and when federal law is changed.
It is estimated by proponents that legalized online poker could generate $200 million or more per year in revenues for the state of California. The proposed tax rate under SB 1463 is 10% of the gross gaming revenue. With the recent monetary troubles of the California government, it is expected that they will approve some form of online poker in the near future.