California Online Poker Drawing Dead for 2015

Posted on September 15, 2015

The 2015 California legislative session has officially concluded and once again, online poker has failed to come to a vote. Friday was the official end to the 2015 session and as expected, there were no last minute miracles performed by lawmakers to pass iPoker.

Same Story – Different Year

We’d like to say that there were deep and complex issues that were stalling regulation in the Golden State, but the truth is that the same issues that were stalling regulation in 2013 are the same issues facing lawmakers heading into 2016.

The deadlock between tribes and the horse racing industry continues. Racetracks want to be able to spread online poker while tribes claims that this is an expansion of gambling not approved for by citizens. Most believe that the tribes simply do not want the competition from racetracks.

Then there’s the bad actor clause. We really should just rename this the PokerStars Clause because there hasn’t been a single bad actor that has expressed even remote interest in operating in California. Why should they? Most of the bad actors are already operating outside of regulation so what makes one think they would go through the efforts to legitimize their operations.

PokerStars has done everything possible to change their image but stakeholders cannot move past the supposed “tainted assets” presented by the company. While some groups are changing their view regarding PokerStars, the Pechanga are unwilling to budge and unfortunately, they are the one group that really matters in this fight.

Why Will 2016 Be Any Different?

Each year, there have been minor milestones achieved by California towards iGaming regulation and this year was no exception. However, a couple of developments leave analysts hopeful that the state will legalize the game in 2016 or 2017.

First, the fact that the Pechanga offered compromises to the horse racing industry was a great first step. Although the industry rejected these compromises, it still shows a willingness by the Pechanga to iron out that matter.

We still believe that if the horse racing industry would reevaluate the compromises, they would see that it would be in their best interest to forego licensing and go with the offers on the table.

Next, the walls are beginning to close in regarding PokerStars. Caesars and other key groups flipped the script in 2015 and are now in support of PokerStars in California. Furthermore, PokerStars is running a highly popular propaganda campaign in the state that is resulting in enhanced awareness among citizens.

If the Pechanga are willing to compromise over allowing racetracks to participate in regulated iPoker, why can’t they do so with PokerStars? We have advocated for a revenue sharing program between PokerStars and smaller tribes in the past.

Also, we’ve also advocated that PokerStars share their “bad assets” and player lists with other licensees in California in order to level the playing field. Perhaps PokerStars would consider a delayed entry into California to give other groups a head start and get their name out there before PokerStars enters the market.

There’s room for compromise if the Pechanga would do so. The question now is whether they are willing to budge on their “principles” or will we be back here next year hyping 2017 as the year iPoker is regulated in California.

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James Guill

Originally a semi-professional player, James transitioned to the media side in 2008. Since then he has made a name for himself reporting for some of the top names in the industry. When not covering the poker world, James travels around central Virginia hunting for antique treasure.

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