Posted - 03/10/2011 : 10:05:23 AM
| Tribe: Internet gaming could be an $82M boon
Legalizing Internet gambling in California can pump another $82 million annually into the state's depleted coffers, the chairman of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians says.
“It's big business,'' said chairman Robert Martin, whose Morongo Resort & Spa near Cabazon hosts the annual California Nations Indian Gaming Association conference that begins today.
“This (Internet gambling) industry generates $13 billion annually, and that's all going offshore,'' he said in an interview with The Desert Sun.
“Today, 2 million people play each week. It's a huge market, and it's illegal. Not a dime out of that money comes back to the state.”
For two years, the Morongo tribe has publicly pushed for the legalization of Internet gambling, which is expected to be the main talker at the conference.
With the state's $25.4 billion deficit, Las Vegas-style Indian casinos strapped for cash and the state of New Jersey also pushing to license online gambling, the Morongo Band isn't backing down from its push.
Martin said the tribe is part of a poker-only Internet initiative — led by California Online Poker Association — that will enrich woefully depleted state coffers, provide revenues to American Indian tribes and keep California's gambling economy solvent.
COPA, a group of 29 tribes and 13 non-Indian card clubs, has introduced a bill by Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, to regulate, legalize and operate Internet poker — quite likely on three sites — in exchange for fees on gross revenue.
The state could reap $1 billion over 10 years — and shore up the budget gap — if online poker is authorized, Martin said, quoting a Jan. 5 study by Blue Sky Consulting Group that was commissioned by COPA and co-authored by former state finance director Tim Gage.
The projection is based on estimates the state would initially earn $82 million per year, assuming a 10 percent operator fee on gross gambling receipts. Budget bailout prospect aside, the legislation has not gained widespread support among tribes.
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