The Coeur d’Alene Casino has announced that it will inaugurate its new live poker room on May 2. The casino executives say that tribe-owned casinos such as Coeur d’Alene Casino have nothing to do with the ban imposed on poker games by the state of Idaho. The Idaho Lottery Commission, however, does not agree.
The casino wants to offer Omaha and Texas Hold’em in its new poker room. Helo Hancock, the legislative director of the Coeur d’Alene tribe, says that both the above-mentioned poker games are skill-based, where players play against other players and not the house. After taking into consideration a number of legal opinions regarding poker games, the tribe has come to the conclusion that the state’s laws do not apply to its casino as per the provisions of the Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
Idaho Lottery Commission Director Jeff Anderson, however, has interpreted the law in a different way. He says that the Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act exempts certain card games without a house bank, but only if the state does not prohibit those games. He said, “Poker is specifically prohibited in Idaho.”
Eric Shepard, the acting general counsel of the Indian Gaming Commission, feels that this is rather unusual. He said, “We’re aware of the tribe’s intention to offer poker, and we’re working through our own analysis of the matter right now.” Anderson had recently written to the commission, requesting it to consider the issue.
The tribe had been planning to offer poker games for the past several years, as marketing studies show that the Coeur d’Alene Casino is unable to compete with tribal casinos offering poker games and commercial card rooms in Washington.
The Coeur d’Alene Casino, which offers a golf course and a hotel, is the biggest money maker for the tribe. The casino’s profits are used to fund the tribe’s medical, educational, and social welfare programs. Hancock said: “We’ve been looking at ways to stay competitive in the gaming industry. Poker is something that we consistently get requests for.”
Laura Stensgar, the executive marketing director for the casino, said that the casino will be able to attract new customers if it begins offering poker games. She also said that most poker players are younger men, while women prefer playing slots. She said: “It’s a way to broaden the experience. The husband plays poker; the wife plays the slot machines or goes to the spa. They stay to have dinner together.”