California Giving Online Poker Legislation Another Shot
2013 continues to look like it’s going to be the year of intrastate online poker in the U.S. With the chances of Federal legislation legalizing the game all but dead, the attention of the poker world continues to be on individual states as they race to become the first to market.
Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware have already passed laws legalizing online poker. The state that would be the most coveted piece of the puzzle, California
, has yet to find its way onto the map, although it’s not for a lack of effort. The state’s latest attempt comes from State Senator Lou Correa
, who introduced Senate Bill 678 last Friday.
The Authorization and Regulation of Internet Poker and Consumer Protection Act of 2013
(http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140SB678&search_keywords=) is as short of a bill as you’ll ever find, especially for an undertaking this complex. SB 678 looks to amend California’s current gambling law to allow internet poker sites
to operate within state borders. It also calls on the California Gambling Control Commission to pen regulatory frameworks for both the licensing of poker sites and their rules of operation.
SB 678 essentially authorizes the Commission to do what Senator Roderick Wright
’s (pictured) SB 51 lays out. The Internet Gambling Consumer Protection and Public-Private Partnership Act of 2013 sets forth the rules and regulations for intrastate online poker in California. Among its details: licenses would be good for five years, licensees would have to pay a one-time fee of $30 million against which their monthly fees will be drawn, and only online poker is permitted.
Despite being one of the most poker-friendly states in the U.S., California has had a rough go of it when trying to get the online version legalized and regulated. The first significant attempt at bringing intrastate online poker to California residents came in 2011, when dual bills were debated in the State Senate. Senator Correa penned SB 40, which only authorized poker to be played online, while Senator Wright’s SB 45 allowed for all games.
When neither bill was able to move forward, State Senator Darrell Steinberg
wrote in a letter in late August 2011, “Significant, unresolved issues remain, including Tribal exclusivity and a waiver of sovereignty immunity, the types of games that would be authorized, who would be eligible to apply for gaming site licenses, and potential Federal questions.”
Senators Wright and Steinberg gave it another shot in 2012, drafting an extremely detailed bill that would have been poker-only for two years before opening up the market to all sorts of games.
One of the biggest obstacles in getting the bill passed was the multitude of Tribal interests across the state. Native American Tribes were particularly against language in the bill that called for “a blanket waiver of Tribal sovereign immunity
.” Tribal interests and existing card rooms also wanted the bill to restrict licensees to those who were already authorized to offer brick-and-mortar poker.
The bill was eventually amended to be poker-only, the “sovereign immunity” clause was modified, and the license duration was cut from ten years to five. Despite the many changes and concessions, the bill was dropped from the legislative agenda. Those in the know point the finger at the various special interests that were discontent with their potential share of the action. While California’s size makes its potential as an online poker economy great, it also makes getting legislation passed much harder, as there are dozens of competing stakeholders all fighting for position.
Senator Wright’s SB 51 is almost identical to his bill from last year. Perhaps seeing online poker closer to a reality in other states will push things along this time around.