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Gaming Law Expert: Online Poker In California Has 'Very Good Chance' Next Year

'The Problem Is Purely Political,' Says Lawyer I. Nelson Rose


The consensus is that online poker legalization in California is a matter of when, not if. When could very likely come next year, said I. Nelson Rose, a leading lawyer and scholar of gambling law in the United States. The issue has been discussed for more than five years.

Rose said this past winter that online poker wouldn’t happen this year in California because it’s an election year, and he turned out to be right about the prediction.

Bills to authorize online poker for state gambling interests—and their partners from wherever—didn’t gain enough traction, and here we are in late August already looking forward to 2015.

A new bill could be introduced in December from Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer.

“I think there is a very good chance it will happen in 2015,” Rose said.

“The problem is purely political,” he explained. “California has politically powerful gaming tribes and card clubs, who have nothing against Internet poker, as long as they are the ones to run it. But politicians are only looking at raising revenue, not protecting local operators. So they want big money players like Caesars Entertainment. An added wrench in the works is that one group of operators wants to team up with PokerStars, so their potential competitors had ‘Bad Actors’ provisions added to the bills. Once a political solution is worked out, and it is not an election year, the Legislature will approve Internet poker for California.”

By all accounts, gaming interests in the state are more aligned than ever before on the Internet poker issue. A compromise is slowly, but apparently surely, on its way.

In the meantime, real-money online poker is coming to California in the form of a tribal group deciding to exercise its right under a federal statute to run online poker from its reservation to Californians. The tribe doesn’t need California to explicitly authorize it.

Since online poker has been debated in Sacramento since in or around 2009 and nothing has ever been accomplished, history would tell one not to be optimistic about 2015. However, within the past 16 months, online gaming industries have debuted in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware. California, if it wants to be at the forefront of this new gaming realm, better eventually make a decisive move. One can bet on it doing so soon.