California online poker players received a setback this week after it was announced that legalized Internet poker won’t be written into law this year.Â The news that State Senator Lou Correa’s Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act will not go to a legislative vote in 2014 came as a blow to Californians and members of the US poker economy at large.
Correa first introduced an online poker bill back in 2013, but soon submitted a new piece of legislation (SB1366) in February, 2014, alongside a similar bill (AB2291) sponsored by California Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer.
However, with less than one month until California’s legislative session ends, Correa has decided to retract his bill in favor of refining it in the future. Speaking to the LA Times, Correa confirmed that his latest effort to regulate poker in the Golden State has been dropped because there isn’t enough time to refine it.
“Internet poker is an important public policy. We need to make sure it’s done right,” Correa said.
On top of Correa’s decision to abandon the fight for regulation in 2014, Jones-Sawyer also confirmed his efforts have come to a halt this year.Â In a statement to Pokernews, Jones-Sawyer said there wasn’t enough time to get his bill passed before the close of the legislative period on August 31st.Â However, the Assembly member did confirm that his proposal will be the first online poker bill introduced for the next session in December.
The battle for online regulation in California has faced a number of obstacles over the past two years. Aside from 2014 being a state election year, something which makes issues such as online poker too controversial to pin down, Sheldon Adelson has reportedly spent over $300,000 opposing regulation in the last nine months.Â The billionaire owner of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. has been one of the most vehement opponents to online poker in the US and it seems he is eager to impose his will, whatever the cost.
The other factor working against California regulation is the “bad actor” clause contained in the recent bills.Â In a bid to ensure that no operators or affiliates that operated in the US post-2006 and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) can rejoin the market, both Correa’s and Jones-Sawyer’s bills have put legislative roadblocks in place.Â This would mean sites such as PokerStars would be banned from joining a regulated market in California; something Amaya, Inc., the new owners of PokerStars, has argued against. Now that original founders Isai and Mark Scheinberg have left the company, it could also pave the way for no longer being classified as a “bad actor” for PokerStars in this new era.
Although there are likely to be some negations regarding so-called “bad actors,” the presence of the clause is certainly something that’s continued to hamper the regulatory process thus far.Â Where California goes from here is unclear, but with many insiders still hopeful, it’s likely to be a case of “when” and not “if” a bill will be passed.