American Indian Tribes Helped Defeat California Bil

27 June 2002

An anti-Internet gambling bill was defeated in the California legislature on Tuesday. The bill had been strongly opposed by American Indian gambling interests.

California Assemblyman Dario Frommer purposed a bill that would have banned gambling on the Internet, but the bill was held without vote by the Senate Governmental Organization Committee, a move that kills the bill without members having to record their positions.

No legislator would second a motion to consider it, ending its prospects under the parliamentary rules that govern legislative debates.

The move came after the state's Native American tribes expressed interest in using the Internet to offer gambling. The groups feared Frommer's bill would stand in the way of that possibility.

Frommer had put similar bills before the legislature in the past two years and was unable to get any of them to move. His 2002 bill was the first one that had public opposition from Native American tribes.

The California Nations Indian Gaming Association was the main lobbying group opposed to the bill. Officials with the CNIGA could not be reached for comment.

The measure was aimed to ban Internet gambling in the Golden State but would have allowed for the continuation of the Advanced Deposit Wagering system already in place for the horse racing industry. The bill, AB 1229, also would have prohibited credit card companies and financial services from handling transactions for illegal online gambling.

Frommer and his media representative failed to return numerous messages from IGN but Frommer did tell the Los Angles Times that he was blindsided by the opposition to the bill from the Indians.

"My reaction is really one of disbelief," Frommer said. "Two years ago, that same committee passed a very similar bill by [Assembly Speaker] Herb Wesson. The only difference is that we now have a powerful Indian group in opposition."

Native American tribes, which were granted the right to offer slot machines and expand gambling operations by California voters in 1998, did not testify at the hearing.

A number of law enforcement organizations and anti-gambling groups supported Frommer's bill, which was tabled in the Senate last year. Frommer also enjoyed support from the state's horse racing interests.

In earlier interviews with IGN, Frommer said he isn't totally opposed to Internet gambling. His prohibition bill was put forward after he heard from constituents that they weren't paid out their winnings from various online casinos. He said that if an effective regulation policy and plan could be shown to him, he would have no problem supporting it.

He told the Times after the latest defeat of his bill that in addition to players not getting paid their winnings, he is concerned with what he feels is the addictive nature of the industry and fairness of play.

"There is no way to know whether when you roll the dice" through the computer on an Internet gambling site, "you have a fair chance," he said. "Every indication is that these sites are very addictive. We have no control over it. We've seen people lose hundreds of thousands of dollars."

With the public opposition of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, it is uncertain whether Frommer will introduce a prohibition bill during the legislature's next session.