For many years, industry analysts pointed to California as being the gateway state for online poker to become legalized. After all, if the most populous state could pull it off, many believe that would lead to a domino effect for other states to get on board.
But California’s Native American tribes who operate a monopoly for casinos have long opposed legalizing online gaming and online poker. Now, in a reversal of that long-held stance, the seven most influential tribes’ leaders have testified that they are ready to make it happen, assuming certain stipulations be met.
Key Conditions Still Up for Debate
The key condition that the tribes testified as needing for their full support was that only their casinos be licensed to operate online poker rooms. Many other entities would want to do the same, but California’s Native American population currently has a monopoly, as voted by California citizens. By allowing only current gaming tribes to operate poker sites in California, the state could be in the fast lane towards legislation.
For many years, California’s gaming tribes have been one of the most influential lobbying groups in the state. When the groups come together to speak on one subject, they tend to not just be heard, but also get their way. Contributing heavily over the years to political campaigns on both sides has bought them the favor of lawmakers. Those same lawmakers heard the seven biggest tribes speak and seemed to share the newly found enthusiasm conveyed by the tribes.
Opposition is Mounting
While many on both sides of the political spectrum listened to the panel, not all were enthusiastic at the possibility of legalized online poker in California. There are those in the pocket of one Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas billionaire who has vowed to kill any and all online gaming and poker, at both the state and federal level. Adelson has already stated multiple times that online poker in California would hurt Las Vegas businesses and has already hired a goon squad of lobbyists to assist efforts to block any Californian legalization of online poker.
One of the biggest obstacles remaining is the debate around PokerStars. The world’s largest poker room obviously wishes to be a part of any efforts to establish legalized online poker in California. One of the three largest gaming tribes, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, has come into an agreement with three existing large card clubs, to build an alliance with PokerStars. Other tribes have cried foul over the matter, since PokerStars immediately gives them a huge competitive advantage in the marketplace given their worldwide popularity and brand awareness.
Some tribes are of the opinion that PokerStars should not be allowed to operate in California, should legislation be drafted and passed. They cite that because the Justice Department accused PokerStars of illegal operations in the United States, a “bad actor” clause should be enforced. However, PokerStars never admitted guilt to the accusations and paid a fine to have the case dropped.
Legal Climate Helps California
Online poker is legal in three states, specifically Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware. Many people believe that California will be the fourth state to legalize Internet poker. The online version of the game has been legalized and regulated in many European countries already. Analysts now point to those states and abroad to demonstrate that promises made to ensure only players in those localities who are of age will be allowed to play.
With the debate now over between the tribes in California of whether online poker should happen or not, many analysts are saying that it is absolutely possible that legislation could be drafted and proposed in 2014, and at the latest in 2015. With two massive lobbyist groups fighting against each other in California’s capitol city of Sacramento, time will tell whether online poker will finally become a reality in the Golden State.