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Internet poker battle waged in Sacramento

August 16, 2011 |  3:18 pm

A group of casino operators has taken to radio and television with ads urging state lawmakers to legalize Internet poker in California, prompting opponents to step up pressure for legislators to table the proposal for the year.

The ads by the California Online Poker Assn. say legalizing web-based poker could help the state avoid deep budget cuts. The spots started airing in the Sacramento area this week. Legislators are less than a month away from the deadline to act on bills this year.

“Online poker will provide California with $250 million dollars immediately and billions more in the future,’’ said Ryan Hightower, a spokesman for the association.

The group includes Commerce Casino, Bicycle Club, Hollywood Park Casino and operators of American Indian gaming facilities, including the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

Other American Indian tribes have joined the California Tribal Business Alliance, which Tuesday sent a letter to legislators asking them to drop two pending pieces of legislation for the year.

The alliance includes the Pala Band of Mission Indians, which operates a casino near Temecula. The alliance argues that Internet poker could take customers away from brick-and-mortar casinos.

"There are numerous stakeholders who stand to be irreparably harmed should legislation be 'ram-rodded' through this legislative year, and this surely would be a disservice to all Californians, tribal and nontribal alike," Robert H. Smith, chairman of the alliance, wrote in the letter to lawmakers.

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California tax revenues plunge, deep cuts to schools could be triggered

-- Patrick McGreevy

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