COPA Disbands, CalShark Future Uncertain

The California Online Poker Association (COPA) has disbanded without notice, leaving the group’s coalition of 31 California tribal casinos and live rooms offering poker without a unified lobbying front.

The group’s disbanding also includes the discontinuation of the site’s online home at, whose domain was allowed to lapse on October 22nd.

Another COPA-related entity, the play-money poker site CalShark (, remains in operation, though with an uncertain future. The site was created as part of a deal between COPA and online-poker software provider Playtech, as part of a wave of anticipation that Californian legislators would be able to pass an online-poker measure catering to its in-state players.

Instead, legislative negotiations have collapsed, a victim of in-fighting between the various factions seeking to carve up the potential California online-poker market.

COPA’s disbanding was first revealed via a Twitter post from editor Victor Rocha, who recently publsihed a piece announcing the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians’ withdrawal from the organization. According to Rocha, this was followed by the backing out of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, one of the group’s most powerful players. At that point, COPA’s board voted to disband.

COPA was last in the news in early August with a series of proposed changes to SB 1463, the contentious California online poker bill then under consideration. COPA’s proposal would have granted exclusivity for online-poker offerings within the state to tribal entities, in the process locking out pari-mutuels and other interested players.

COPA’s push for exclusivity, with the threat of withholding support from SB 1463, may have helped to shatter the fragile coalition that backed SB 1463 in the face of anti-gambling opposition from other California legislators.

UPDATE: Following the publishing of this article COPA spokesperson, Ryan Hightower, made the following statement to pokerfuse via email:

The California Online Poker Association’s Board of Managers has announced it is dissolving the association. The decision was based upon insufficient progress within the legislature toward the passage of an online pker bill.

When the California Online Poker Association (COPA) was formed two years ago, the COPA operating agreement contemplated that the organization might be dissolved if state online poker legislation had not passed by January 2, 2013.

COPA’s members continue to believe that the authorization of intrastate Internet poker would provide California with hundreds of millions in new state revenue, thousands of new jobs and vital protections for players.