In a move that shook the foundation of the energy and efforts put into bringing online gaming to California residents by Indian tribes and gaming concerns, Sen. Dianne Feinstein jumped on the bandwagon to co-sponsor a federal ban on internet gambling that could, if passed, erase all their efforts.
Feinstein marked her allegiance to Sheldon Adelson's campaign to ban online gambling in the United States as the lone Democrat to co-sponsor the "Restoration of America's Wire Act" bill. The bill was introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) last week and falls right into alignment with Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson's, the biggest Republican campaign contributor, plans to ban online gambling.
"We're concerned that there appears to have been no consultation before she decided to support this bill, which would have direct impacts on California tribes," said Leslie Lohse, chair of the California Tribal Business Alliance. "We look forward to having government to government consultation with Sen. Feinstein, and ultimately doing what's best for California and Indian Country."
Those who are pushing for the legalization of online gaming in California were not aware that Feinstein would ally her political position with Adelson's campaign. The fact that Feinstein did not disclose any information prior to her decision is the main problem since, not only are the residents of California affected, but also tribal governments are involved and being completely ignored, without the ability to speak-out, is taken as an insult.
That fact that Feinstein stands against Internet gambling is no secret but pushing her own interests into play and removing her state's option of having a choice in the matter is creating a major ripple.
"She's been consistent when it comes to issues of gambling, and that she is not in favor of seeing an expansion of gambling," said Keith Sharp, an attorney who represents Los Angeles-area card clubs Commerce Casino, Hawaiian Gardens and Bicycle Casino. "I would hope that at some point we'll be able to have dialogue with her and perhaps persuade her that leaving this to the state is the preferred course of action."
Sharp isn't in the hurry-up-and-wait mode to see what will happen with the introduction of the bill by Graham. Sharp believes California should act quickly to enact legislation before any chance of a federal ban is passed. Although, if the legislation is passed, it would remove anything that previously was made legal by states on Internet gambling and that includes the states that currently have Internet gambling in place — New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware.
A hearing has been scheduled in the Golden State in the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee for April 23 at 1:30 p.m., on the subject of "public policy and fiscal implications of authorizing intrastate internet poker in California." And Sharp doesn't believe that Feinstein's support of the ban is going to keep California from moving forward with online poker.
"We have a state legislature that does what's best for California," Sharp said. "They may factor in Sen. Feinstein's decision, but our legislature has shown to be independent thinking."
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