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sdf_fund_resized.JPGCalifornia's tribes with casinos once were deeply divided about how, or even if, the state should legalize online poker, blocking any legislative deal.

Now tribes are talking, but a licensing measure remains elusive because of key disagreements, two influential tribal leaders said at this week's online poker conference sponsored by Capitol Weekly and the UC Center Sacramento.

Robert Martin, the chairman of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians near Beaumont, said he would have no problem with legislation that allows race tracks and advanced-deposit wagering facilities to offer online poker.

"I can't answer for every tribe, but I can tell you that Agua Caliente would oppose that bill," said Jeff Grubbe, chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians near Palm Springs. He noted that voters in 2004 rejected a ballot measure that would have expanded gambling at horse tracks.

And Grubbe said his tribe and others want any legalized California online poker games to exclude operators such as PokerStars, which critics say has violated federal law.

Such "bad actor" language would be a deal breaker, Martin responded. His tribe, which is working with PokerStars, thinks the state's gambling regulators should make that call, not lawmakers.

"If it disqualifies our partner without even giving them an opportunity to apply, we would have to fight that," Martin said of the measure.

The two online poker bills in play are Assembly Bill 2291 by Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, and Senate Bill 1366 by state Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana.

PHOTO: Dealers practice before the opening of the 340,000-square-foot Graton Casino & Resort in October 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.


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