Latest California iPoker Hearing an Informational Bust

Written By James Guill on May 21, 2015
Horse racing was the most discussed topic at an otherwise uneventful iPoker legislation hearing.

There was good news and bad news regarding iGaming legislation in California on Wednesday. The good news is that there was a Joint Informational hearing by the Assembly and Senate Governmental Organization (GO) committees.

The bad news is that the hearing was disappointing and did nothing to forward the legalization effort. In fact, one of the key players in the legislative drama chose not to show up on Wednesday.

Race Tracks Want to Offer Online Poker – Not Receive Subsidies

The only testimony of major significance during this hearing came from Rick Baedeker, executive director of the California Horse Racing Board. He spoke at length and argues that race tracks should be included in any iPoker legislation in the state.

Baedeker testified that horse racing wagering has declined by 45% thanks to the popularity of other forms of gambling in California. The industry held a monopoly on the gambling industry in the state for 40 years.

He also testified that over 26% of horse racing’s revenue is through internet gambling. Where some have suggested that the horse racing industry receive a subsidy over being allowed to participate in iGaming, Baedeker believes that horse racing should get more respect.

According to Baedeker, “Given its long history in the state, deep routes in the California greenbelt, and 13 years of legal online wagering, racing should receive every consideration to participate in Internet poker if it becomes a reality here in California.” The horse racing industry provides over $2.5 billion to California economy annually and provides over 50,000 jobs to residents.

Hall Was Apathetic and So Seemed The Committee

One notable absence from the hearing was Senate GO Chairman Isadore Hall, III. Chris Grove of Online Poker Report mentioned via Twitter that Hall was not in attendance and that SB278 was dead, sparking an interesting replay by Hall:

Hall’s lack of interest in the hearing seemed to spread to the rest of the committee as later reported by Grove via Twitter:

One has to wonder whether the apathy of Hall and the other committee members was because they were “up to speed” on the issues or maybe they are resigned to the bill not passing this year. It would seem that lawmakers would have at least faked interest considering the fact that time is beginning to run out on passing a bill this year.

Is More of the Same to Be Expected in Future Hearings?

Two hearings remain this summer for iGaming. The first is another “Informational Hearing” by the Joint Go Committees. One has to wonder whether this will be another dud of a hearing or if some serious matters are discussed during this hearing.

The last hearing is on July 8 by the Assembly GO Committee. It will discuss AB 9 and AB 167. Some believe this could be the most important hearing this summer and could determine whether or not a bill will be voted upon in 2015.

Of course, there’s still a lot that can happen between now and July. AB 431 still needs to be filled out and there’s still the outside chance that issues could be negotiated to a successful conclusion by both the horse racing industry and the Pechanga.

However, if today’s hearing is a sign of what’s to come, this may be an issue we are discussing in June – of 2016.

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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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