Online Poker in California

August 2, 2014
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Is Online Poker Legal in California?

California Poker Quick Facts
 
California Online Poker

As long as you arenít actually operating an online poker site in California, the Golden State doesnít have a problem with you playing poker online. They just donít want you to operate a poker site within their state, so play on!

State Population:
38,041,430
State Size:
163,696 sq. miles
Is online poker legal in California?
YES

As of 2014, online poker in California is not legalized or regulated. However, it is still a grey area - as it is in most states. There is not a California state law specifically outlawing online poker sites either and no one seems to be pursuing any internet poker players. There is a lot of talk about creating a legal framework for California online poker sites in the near future so there is hope.

Gambling in California dates back to the days of the Gold Rush, as those who did make it to California and discover gold liked to gamble. Gambling in saloons and other establishments centered around San Francisco but could be found all over the state.

Californiaís state and local governments charged fees for gambling halls, but it came to an end in the 1850s when a new wave of immigrants wanted it banned. Poker was the only game that survived an 1860 ban on banked gambling games, but that wasn't strictly regulated.

Californian Poker FAQ

Q: Will online gambling be included in a California bill?

A. Most likely, any legislation that passes in California will be for online poker only. Many opponents, including Indian tribes, will keep a general online gambling bill from passing, while there is room for agreement among all parties on online poker.

Q. Will players in other states be able to access legal California online poker sites?

A. In the beginning, the state may implement an intrastate law that requires players to be residents of the state of California. However, other states like Nevada may want to work to create partnerships to increase liquidity with a larger player base.

Q. Can Indian tribes offer online poker?

A. Currently, no one is allowed to operate a California online poker company. If a law passes to allow it, though, Indian tribes will have as much opportunity to compete in the market as any other entity.

Q. Why is California putting off legal online poker when the state is in need of revenue?

A. There are many concerns surrounding the topic of gambling, under which online poker continues to be classified. Some state legislators have a difficult time getting past stereotypes about gambling. The state is in dire need of additional revenue, however, and with several cities like Stockton declaring bankruptcy, a new revenue stream could be very helpful in California.

Californian Gaming Restriction Act

In 1984, California enacted the Gaming Restriction Act to provide regulations for the card rooms that popped up around the state, but the Attorney Generalís office was limited in power and funding to regulate per the law. The Gambling Control Act was then passed in 1997 to rectify that with the creation of the Bureau of Gambling Control and the California Gambling Control Commission, the latter of which consisted of five members appointed by the governor. The Bureau monitored gaming operations, while the Commission established regulatory standards for the stateís gambling industry, which has now extended to more than 89 licensed card rooms, tribal casinos, and charitable bingo organizations. Three years later, Proposition 1A was passed for California voters to permit casino gaming on Indian lands. The state entered into compacts with tribes to regulate and control the activities. All of these entities have a tremendous stake in the issue of California online poker.

Californian Online Poker and the UIGEA

The first discussions of online poker sites in California came after the 2006 passage of the federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. As some online poker companies left the United States and the future for the rest looked grim, intrastate gambling became a viable alternative. California Assemblyman Lloyd Levine was the first to introduce a bill regarding the topic in 2008. His AB2026 bill would have enabled the California legislature to study the legality of intrastate online poker sites. However, the bill did not pass. More bills were introduced in the months and years that followed, but there was no success, despite statistics showing that more than 2 million California residents play or have played online poker. The game could also offer thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue for the struggling state, and such numbers have even been corroborated by the Stateís own finance director.

Constant efforts by organizations like the Poker Voters of America, Poker Players Alliance, and California Online Poker Association encouraged the latest bill, SB1463, which was introduced in 2012 by State Senators Roderick Wright and Darrell Steinberg. As of August, the bill is dead in the committee in which it was introduced, but Wright vowed to continue the fight. His bill would have allowed California online poker licenses to operators who pass background exams and pay licensing fees to the state, and taxes would provide revenue for California. However, some of the primary opponents are the Indian tribes that donít feel that their interests are being represented in current bills. To contact California legislators, visit this page: California State Legislature.

Online Poker in California Today

Poker players in California can play in card rooms and Indian casinos throughout the state, though California online poker continues to be debated in and out of the legislature.

All casino games can be played at Indian casinos in the state, and table games like poker can be found in California card rooms, of which there are more than 100. Said card rooms also offer games like blackjack and mahjong but with California rules that prohibit the casino from being the bank. Commerce Casino in Los Angeles is the largest card room in the world, and it hosts the L.A. Poker Classic poker tournament each year. Other casinos, like The Bicycle Club and Bay 101, also host major poker tournaments. In addition, horse betting is popular and allowed at any of the racetracks located throughout the state.

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