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California Tribes Debate Advantages of Online Casinos

California tribes are in a heated debate over whether to support or oppose legislation that seeks to bring legal intrastate online poker to the state.

While California is considering a law to allow Internet gambling, the politically powerful tribal casino operators are sharply split on whether supporting legal intrastate online casinos is good for them. While some tribes see online poker as the next step in increasing revenue, others worry it may be a loophole that costs them much of the advantages their casinos already enjoy.

The Morongo tribe from Riverside County leads those Indians supporting the online poker bill. They wish to join with their old rivals, the poker room operators, to form an Internet poker network.

Tribal leaders say consumers, the state, and tribes could all benefit from the additional revenue source and the ability to keep players instate, rather than lose them to offshore, unregulated online casinos.

But the Viejas Band of Mission Indians, based near San Diego, leads several tribes staunchly opposed to the Internet poker bill. They fear that a bill allowing online poker will soon allow all gambling anywhere within the state, destroying the exclusivity the tribes now exploit.

"There are serious constitutional, financial, legal, regulatory and other questions that need to be addressed carefully and deliberately before this scheme goes any further," said a Viejas spokesman.

"It just seems like Morongo is willing to sacrifice the monopoly it has, so that they can be the operating entity of Internet gambling in the state to the detriment of all the other tribes," added Cheryl Schmidt, director of an anti-gambling organization.

Published on August 20, 2009 by TomWeston

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