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BB CASINO LIMITS CARDS.JPGOne of two competing bills to legalize Internet gambling in California has won support from a major Indian association representing more than two dozen casino and non-casino tribes.

The California Nations Indian Gaming Association, known as CNIGA, has voted to endorse Senate Bill 40 by Democratic Sen. Lou Correa of Santa Ana, said Jerome Encinas, director of government affairs.

Encinas said SB 40 is preferable to the competing measure, Senate Bill 45, because Correa's proposal is specific to online poker and calls for operators to be existing California businesses or tribes.

The Indian group opposes SB 45 but its decision to endorse Correa's bill was not unanimous, Encinas said.

"We had some tribes that were concerned, but at the end of the day it passed," he said.

Hot debate is expected in the Legislature this year over whether to legalize Internet gambling. The Senate Governmental Organization Committee has scheduled an informational hearing on the subject at 4 p.m.

Consultants estimate that U.S. citizens place billions in bets each year on websites operated offshore or outside the nation's boundaries, according to SB 40.

By legalizing online poker, California could regulate the games to ensure their honesty and the state, rather than illegal offshore companies, could benefit financially from the activity, SB 40 contends.

PHOTO CREDIT: A Sacramento resident plays Pai Gow poker at the Capitol Casino in downtown Sacramento on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2006. Brian Baer / Sacramento Bee file photo


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