California online poker appears positioned to once again be an important topic of discussion in Sacramento when the legislature reconvenes on January 4, 2016.
Both the state senate and assembly have been on recess since the end of August when the capitol officially closed the books on the passage of any potential legislation.
Unfortunately for proponents of online poker, that included Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer’s (D-District 59) AB 167, a bill that aimed to license Internet poker through tribal casinos, horse racetracks, and land-based card rooms.
As legislators meet with their local constituents across the state, a growing sentiment of support for Internet poker seems to cultivating across party lines and even tribal borders that currently hold a large monopoly on gambling.
“We have hundreds of thousands of people in California already playing illegally,” Rincon Tribe Council Member Steve Stallings told San Diego’s KGTV this month. “Their money is not protected. The integrity of the game is not protected.”
Protections, Revenues, and H2O
The Rincon Tribe is one of six federally recognized members of the Luiseno Indians based in Southern California, and owns the Harrah’s Resort South California.
While other tribal leaders are against the granting of non-Native Americans with the right to offer online poker, Luiseno leaders have joined the Morongo and San Manuel bands in support.
“The debate in Sacramento over the legalization of online gaming, specifically Internet poker, appears to be moving forward,” Rincon Chairman Bo Mazzetti said last summer. “Legalization of iPoker by the state legislature is the only way to stop illegal Internet gaming.”
Poker celebrity Maria Ho says the inability to play online in 47 of the 50 states presents serious concerns for players. “The two biggest fears are, ‘Am I being cheated? Is this game being run with integrity?'” she tells KGTV.
In addition to protecting poker fans, California would also stand to reap much-needed revenues. Estimates for tax generation from authorizing online poker come in as high as $450 million annually for the state’s government.
California has endured a four-year drought that is hoping to be aided by a potential winter El Nino event, but experts say even if a storm comes it won’t end the water shortage.
“It just makes sense from a revenue perspective … rather than that money go offshore to providers we don’t even know, it makes more sense for it to go to helping develop education, obviously the water shortage,” Negreanu added.
WSOP Proves Popularity
Californians want to legalize Internet poker, at least according to the National Research Institute and Survata Inc. who polled 1,500 residents and found that 66 percent favored regulation.
The state is rich in population, its 38.8 million residents roughly 12 million more than second-ranked Texas. When it comes to playing poker, California’s census translates to even more dominating figures at the felt.
During the 2015 WSOP Main Event, Californians represented 19 percent of all US players and 14 percent of the 6,420 entries into the $10,000 event.
Stallings even takes issue with the name “Texas” hold’em.
“A lot of people think that it’s invented in Texas… The real name should be California hold’em because that’s where hold’em really started,” Stallings opined.