Hold Ups for Legal Online Poker in California

August 10, 2013

This year has been laden with much promise for online poker in the state of California, but many Californian politicians now believe there is little hope that any online poker regulations will be passed before the end of this year, despite the three pieces of legislation that have been placed on the table for such regulation.

The current session of the California General Assembly is set to dissolve on September 6, which means that any regulation hoping to pass should have already been approved by the committee and on the floor for a vote. At the moment, three bills on the subject of online poker regulation have been proposed or are in the committee, namely, SB 51, Senator Roderick Wright’s “Internet Gambling Consumer Protection and Public-Private Partnership Act of 2013,” SB 678, State Senator Lou Correa’s “Authorization and Regulation of Internet Poker and Consumer Protection Act of 2013,” and a draft bill from the California Indian tribes.

None of the bills are past the committee stage, which is just the beginning of the process. Barring a special session, these bills must then be reintroduced in the General Assembly come 2014.

The usual infighting is the major cause of the hold-up. Online poker legislation has been an ongoing bone of contention in the Golden State, with the California poker rooms, horse racing tracks, and powerful Indian gaming lobby unable to work out a plan that serves the interests of all parties. The highest point of the infighting was reached in May when the Indian tribes put together the previously mentioned bill in an attempt to circumvent the discussion stalemate between the warring parties.

If such a bill were to pass, California would become the crown jewel of US online poker. It has the largest population, of more than 38 million people, and its potential market dwarfs all the other states that have already passed legislation for online gaming (New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware). And if one of these states were to partner with California for an interstate compact, revenues for all involved would skyrocket. However, the Californian poker scene will only move forward when its warring factions strike an agreement.


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