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GiGse 2014 Summit Expected to Renew California iGaming Debate

Renewed discussion of various forms of various forms of regulated US-based online gambling is expected to come to the fore at next weeks GiGse 2014 summit.  GiGse, short for Global iGaming Summit and Expo, is an annual international gathering of online professionals, business leaders, politicians and media, all with an eye on the Internet gaming market.

gigse_logoNext week’s summit, to be held July 14th-16th at San Francisco’s Hyatt Regency, promises an intense focus on i-gaming matters connected in particular to the summit’s host state, California.  The Golden State continues to face legislative gridlock concerning its possible i-gaming and i-poker future, even as two tribal bills seeking to legalize online poker — while otherwise implementing a virtual statewide ban on i-gaming — remain stalemated in the state’s legislature.

So what’s on the GiGse slate?  In addition to several business- and technical-oriented discussions, a handful of panels looking at the social and political scene promise to highlight some of the ongoing issues.  Here are some of the highlights:

“Political insight: Lively discussion on the igniting ‘federal vs. state’ political debate over online gambling” — This opening-day panel is among those receiving the most advance press, as it features Sheldon Adelson-funded lobbyist Willie Brown, the former mayor of San Francisco, going head to head against former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.  Rendell is the pro-gaming former legislator and now lobbyist who helped bring casino-style gambling to the Keystone State.

The debate will likely begin with Brown arguing for federal legislation with Rendell countering from the states-rights position, but expect it to go sideways quickly: Brown is really representing Adelson’s interests in enacting a United States nationwide ban against online gambling, which although likely unconstitutional, would be easiest to attempt at the federal level.  Rendell, meanwhile, is backed by pro-gaming forces, who would like to see a general expansion of US-based i-gaming, whether federally or state by state.

“In-depth focus: Taking a leap to interstate gaming” — This panel, also on the conference’s first day, is of particular interest to the online poker world.  Interstate compacts are already under development and discussion in the three US states already having regulated i-poker, and as more states join, they’ll look to pool and increase player liquidity as well.

This panel will look at international precedents and practices and examine how differences in state-by-state regulations will affect the interstate pooling process.  It’s an interesting panel, with Caesars Interactive veep Michael Cohen, New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement official Eric Weiss, and Alderney Gambling Control Commission licensing director Michael Ellen among those taking part.

“California – getting closer to legalization?” & “Envisioning iPoker in California” — Twin panels running consecutively on Wednesday, the conference’s final day, promise renewed discussion on the outlook for regulated i-gaming in California, even as the state’s legislature seems unable to craft compromise legislation that can move forward any time in 2014.

Whether or not California can actually do that moving forward or will remain stalemated by the militancy of the main group beyond the current i-poker bills being debated in the state, a faction of major tribal casinos.  The bad-actor and player-criminalization clauses in that proposed legislation are going to be front and center in this panel, as illustrated by the agenda’s listed talking points:

  • Debating the ‘bad actor’ clause
  • What lessons can be learnt from NJ and other states that could be fed into the policy discussions?
  • Cooperation with poker rooms and other market stakeholders
  • Gaining political backing for a carefully constructed consensus among the stakeholders

Among the participants are two of the primary protaganists in the bad-actor debate, Pechanga tribal council chairman Mark Macarro and Morongo chairman Robert Martin.  Macarro is front and center within the forces that have sought bad-actor inclusions designed to block PokerStars from a regulated CA i-poker market, while Martin’s Morongo nation (along with Bicycle Club managing partner Haig Kelegian, another panel participant), contracted with PokerStars (recently purchased by Canada’s Amaya Gaming) for software support.

There’s an interesting framework surrounding this panel as well.  Amaya is the lead sponsor of the entire GiGse 2014 summit, and the tribal faction opposed to the possible future PokerStars-Amaya presence in California will also be attending in force, to the extent of even scheduling an invitation-only tribal iGaming luncheon on the conference’s second day.

While the odds are against any solid agreements emerging from the GiGse debates and discussions, the shape and tenor of the three-day meet should offer an insight into what the next several months may bring for various US i-gaming efforts.  FlushDraw won’t be in attendance, but will be monitoring the summit for interesting developments.


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