Industry Reacts as California Online Poker Bills Shelved

As the end of the yearly session approaches, CA is looking forward to next year and resuming talks about an online poker bill.

The news that California will have to wait at least another year for online poker took a lot of the wind out of the sails of the iGaming world, but the failure of the legislature to pass a bill shouldn’t overshadow the significant progress that was made in the state.

Yes, a lot still needs to be ironed out for online poker to pass in 2015, but we are closer than ever in California, something that was noticeable in many of the comments made following the announcement that the legislature would not be acting on online poker before going to recess at the end of the month.

Senator Lou Correa

State Senator Lou Correa, the sponsor of SB 1366 was the first person to signal that the legislature would not be acting on online poker this session, when he told the LA Times on Wednesday that, “Internet poker is an important public policy. We need to make sure it’s done right,” and stated that there simply wasn’t enough time to get a compromise bill done.

Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer

On Friday, PokerNews.com’s Matthew Kredell heard from a representative speaking on behalf of Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, who sponsored AB 2291. The representative told PokerNews.com that the Jones-Sawyer bill “to legalize online poker in California will not have enough time to pass this legislative session,” but added  “that a new bill will be the first one introduced by the assemblyman for the next session in December.”

The PokerStars coalition

On Friday PokerStars and their California iPoker partners released a three-part statement where they made it clear that they will be advocating for a bill as soon as possible, and that their alliance is still intact and strong.

“We have been working on this issue for five years now and while we were optimistic that a suitable bill would move forward in 2014, we’re in this for the long haul and we’d rather do it right than have a bad bill,” Morongo Band of Mission Indians Tribal Chairman Robert Martin said, speaking on behalf of the coalition. “Clearly the issues surrounding the latest bills that sought to unconstitutionally limit competition, place prohibitions on race tracks, and rewrite longstanding, successful state policy regarding California’s oversight of gaming proved insurmountable for this session. We will continue to work with our partners, legislators, state regulators and other California tribes on developing future iPoker legislation that meets constitutional tests and provides much needed consumer protections to California’s 2 million online poker players.”

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Speaking on behalf of the three card clubs, attorney Keith Sharp said, “Any legislation authorizing Internet poker should ensure that we create the most successful market possible that provides consumers access to the trusted brands they want in a strongly regulated environment. We want to thank Senator Correa, Assembly Member Jones-Sawyer and all of the legislators and stakeholders who have put in the time and effort to get us to this point. We remain committed to continued discussions in the interim and next session.”

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Guy Templer, Group Director of Strategy and Business Development for the Rational Group, which operates PokerStars, said, “PokerStars has a great history with regulators and governments all over the world, and we look forward to working with lawmakers and regulators in California to help structure a market that provides robust competition and strong regulatory oversight. We look forward to bringing our best practices in responsible gaming, online security, e-commerce, protection of players’ funds and game integrity to any new California market.”

Coalition of 13 tribes

Much like the PokerStars alliance, the coalition of 13 tribes that lined up in opposition to PokerStars also released a statement this past week. The coalition struck a similar tone to PokerStars and company (no bill is better than a rushed bad bill) although that singular wedge issue is apparently still keeping the two coalitions apart.

“Our tribal governments have been deliberate and methodical in developing proposed legislation that would strictly regulate and limit Internet poker in California.

“Instilling public confidence in the integrity of State-sanctioned Internet poker is a fundamental principle of ours. To that end and in consultation with the bill authors, our tribal leaders have concluded that rushing a bill in the closing days of this legislative session will not allow for the level of careful public examination and confidence an issue of this magnitude requires.

“We look forward to continuing the work with legislators, regulators, and stakeholders on a bill that can be brought before the Legislature in 2015.”

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Steve Ruddock

About

Steve Ruddock is a longtime member of the online gambling industry. He covers the regulated US online casino and poker industries for variety of publications, including OnlinePokerReport.com, PlayNJ.com, USPoker.com, and USA Today.