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California Online Poker Bills Introduced

If Successful, Online Poker Could Be Running By Jan. 1, 2015

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Could this finally be the year? As anticipated, a pair of online poker bills were introduced to the California legislature late last week.

Assembly Bill 2291 and Senate Bill 1366 are sponsored by Rep. Reggie Jones-Sawyer and Sen. Lou Correa, respectively. Both only want online poker to be legalized.

Other forms of casino gambling on the web would be prohibited under the proposals, as lawmakers have identified poker as a game that requires a key element of skill.

California is home to the nation’s largest and most powerful tribal gaming industry ($6.78 billion), so appeasing these groups, in addition to the card rooms, has been the task of elected officials. Some sort of complex consensus would have to be realized.

Right now, legislation is calling for potential online poker licensees to have previous gambling experience in the state. Of course, they could form partnerships with firms located outside of California, but in order to be an operator you’d have to be established within the Golden State.

AB 2291 would not allow California to enter into a compact with another state to share liquidity for online poker. That’s okay for California, since it has 38 million people and sees lots of visitors. It has long been sort of assumed that California would consider going stag.

If online poker efforts are successful this year, the state could require that at least one site (likely more) is up and operational by Jan. 1, 2015.

An online gaming expert recently told Card Player that California has the best chance of legalizing web poker in 2014. This is despite it being an election year.

“If the state’s fractious but politically powerful Native American gaming industry can agree to a consensus Internet poker bill, tribal lobbyists expect that it will move quickly,” GamblingCompliance’s Chris Krafcik said. “The bill-passage deadline is August 31.”

One unfortunate development could have an impact on efforts in California. One of the state’s biggest supporters of online poker was recently convicted of voter fraud. He had spearheaded initiatives in the past and was presumed to be one of the savviest elected officials on the issue.

“In Sacramento, Senator Wright was considered the most educated lawmaker on Internet poker issues,” Krafcik said. “Some in the Legislature feel that without a politico as knowledgeable as Wright advocating on behalf of the state, whatever Internet poker bill eventually passes could lean too heavily in favor of its Native American gaming industry.”

Both measures will likely be amended as they work through the legislature.

Currently, Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware have legal and operational web gambling.