California online poker and an ensuing interstate player liquidity compact has the potential to launch a thriving iPoker market in the United States, but standing in front of state lawmakers is tough opposition presented in many forms.
First and foremost, the Native American tribes are decisively split on the issue, some coalitions partnering with poker operators while others are adamantly against losing any piece of their gambling monopoly.
Then there are the horse tracks that feel entitled to the industry, the commercial gaming operators, and the politicians scrambling to create some sort of unified stance.
Three assembly bills were introduced in 2015 to legalize online poker, but one has been shelved and another is simply a placeholder bill, meaning iPoker in California for this year is down to its final act, literally.
Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-District 59) introduced AB 167 in mid-January, commonly referred to as the Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2015.
The legislation seeks to create a regulated and legal framework for Californians to play poker online, and it comes with great revenue sources for the state in dire financial stress.
Operators would be required to pay a one-time $10 million licensing fee and pay taxes on its gross revenues at a rate of 8.5 percent.
Considering some forecasts predict online poker in California would generate $500 million annually, that translates to $42.5 million for Sacramento, not to mention the upfront charges levied on the gaming networks.
During July’s scheduled Governmental Organization committee hearing, Mike Gatto (D-District 43) withdrew his bill from the meeting’s agenda because he couldn’t find bilateral support.
“I believe this is the right thing to do at this point because there is no consensus on the issue,” Gatto said.
But for reasons unknown, Jones-Sawyer’s bill was also removed from the docket, prompting media outlets to assume he too had given up the fight for 2015.
However, California online poker received a lifeline after EGR North America reported the GO committee will listen to AB 167 at its next hearing in August.
Drafting your two weeks notice in favor of making a career out of online poker? That’s probably not the soundest idea, as Jones-Sawyer’s bill has what seems like slim chances of becoming law in 2015.
The State Assembly returns from its summer recess on August 17th and will have just 20 legislative sessions before adjourning for the year.
Considering AB 167 is only going to committee hearing, the probability of it working its way through the Assembly and Senate, being debated and voted in favor of in both chambers in less than three weeks of politicking is borderline incomprehensible.
But it does show that lawmakers in California are at least open to discussions, and that’s an important first step in the lengthy process.
Putting the topic in the minds of GO committee members before the nearly four-month long Interim Study Recess could produce a stronger base of supporters come January.
PokerStars and the Californians for Responsible iPoker coalition are also investing heavily in spreading the message that regulated Internet poker creates a safer environment for gamblers, problem gamblers, and those who are underage.
The group’s ultimate goal is to grow support for legislation and eventually legalize online poker.
Until then, Californians will continue to play at offshore online poker networks, and California’s state government will continue to be undercut in tax revenues.