Tribe leaders say that California tribes should reach a consensus on the issue of online poker legalization. Two of the most powerful tribes in the state have publicly urged Indian tribes to create a powerful coalition that can stop opposing the granting of licenses to the state’s race tracks. In spite of this positive development, there is no chance of California legalizing the game this year.

Laurie E. Gonzalez, a council member of the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians, issued a press release on May 20 urging tribes to come to a consensus on the issue of licensing online poker instead of “digging their heels into the ground.” The message is obviously for a coalition of six Indian tribes, including the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, which is opposing the granting of online poker licenses to race tracks.

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Lynn Valbuena, the chair of the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians, stated in a keynote address at the Capitol Weekly Gambling Conference that tribes need to come to a consensus, adding that her tribe is willing to keep “an open mind” on the issue of granting online poker licenses to race tracks. She said: “We’re evaluating all of our options right now, with race tracks. As we all know there are tribes who are opposed to having the tracks in. We have an open mind. We’re still discussing those issues and looking at every option available.”

The above-mentioned coalition of six tribes, including the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians, the Barona Band of Mission Indians, the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, and the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, maintains that giving race tracks the license to offer online poker services violates limited gambling public policies in California. The coalition feels that it would hurt the exclusivity granted to them to operate casino businesses. On the other hand, race tracks say that they are legally entitled to run online poker sites if the state legalizes the game.

Valbuena, a reputed Indian lawyer, says that it is high time for the tribes to unite as the argument has been “going on for seven years.” He said: “We need to get this done … this year, in 2015. We are all tribes with the same goals and objectives and we need to stay together and work this through to get a bill passed.”

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