Wes Woods II, Staff Writer
Created: 06/29/2010 09:50:22 PM PDT

Legislation has been introduced that would make California the first state to legalize Internet poker.

But on Tuesday the state Senate Governmental Organization Committee put on hold plans to legalize Internet poker for players 21 years and older until more of the concerns over S.B. 1485 could be addressed.

Some of the state’s Indian tribes oppose the measure, fearing legalization could harm reservation casinos.

Steve Lengel, executive director of operations for San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino near Highland, said his casino is opposed.

“It’s just the way the language is,” Lengel said before the vote on Tuesday. “It’s too vague.”

He declined to go into detail on what needed to be changed.

“We’ll just continue to monitor it and see what happens,” Lengel said.

Morongo Band of Mission Indians lobbyist Josh Pane told the panel that he was also against the bill.

“We’ve opposed this version of legislation but we support this concept,” Pane said.

Melanie Brenner, executive director of the lobby group Poker Voters of America, which supports efforts to allow Internet poker, said the bill gets around the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 because “it’s going to give the Attorney General’s Office the ability to enforce it. That hasn’t been done with any other bill before,” she said.

“The attorney general and the (state) Department of Justice will be given the authority to protect players from fraud and collusion already taking place,” Brenner said.

The bill, introduced in February, estimates the state would take in about $520million in the first year and $6billion in its first nine years if passed, Brenner said.

“And that grows,” she said.

Other groups support the measure, concluding that they could win the right to administer the games, boosting their revenue.

“We are here to support S.B. 1485,” said Roger Bowman, who said he was with CardRoom International, which he described as a Los Angeles peer-to-peer website.

“Internet poker will help,” Bowman said.

The Rev. James B. Butler, executive director of the California Coalition Against Gambling Expansion, was against the bill.

“I would just like to say there are a group of people in California that will not be profiting by the legalizing of Internet gambling,” Butler said. “There are more than one million problem and pathological gamblers.”

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