California iGaming Week in Review: Delays for Online Poker, Bike Battles Kessler over Live Event

Written By Jennifer Newell on August 22, 2014
CA iGaming Week in Review: Delays in Online Poker Regulation, Player Dissent over Bicycle WPT Legends of Poker Main Event.

Most people in California take their time getting things done. While the state moves forward quickly with some issues, like environmental protections, other issues move like they’ve been caught in traffic on the 405 freeway.

Such is the case with online poker. Though two bills were pending in the state legislature, both were recently shelved, mostly due to various interests and parties who simply cannot come to agreement on key issues.

With one sponsoring legislator set to retire within the next year, the other is left holding the bag of potential money. Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer spoke out in greater detail this week with regard to the future of an online poker bill.

Meanwhile, the Bicycle Casino is hosting its largest tournament series of the year that leads up to the World Poker Tour’s Legends of Poker Main Event. But controversy has taken over prior to this weekend’s start of the event due to some outspoken poker players led by Allen Kessler. And for a change, many poker players agree with him.

California Online Poker Will Require Patience

It has been a frustrating five-year road thus far for online poker advocates in California. And it looks like they will need to wait at least another year for anything of substance to take form.

As noted many times in the media, there are many players in the industry at odds over the details of any online poker bill. Tribes, card rooms, horse tracks, and lottery interests have different feelings about who should be able to offer online poker, details of a bad actor clause, fees for licensing, and partnerships allowed.

At present time, no one seems to be willing to compromise, and that is largely due to the lack of a larger interest forcing conversations between the parties.

State Assemblyman Jones-Sawyer will have his hands full when he introduces another online poker bill as promised. Even to draft the legislation will require that he reconsider the divisiveness of his last bill and how he might be able to find more agreement amongst the parties.

When he shelved his last bill this month, Jones-Sawyer said that he fully intends to introduce another in December of this year for the next legislative session.

His latest statement on the topic reveals more about his recent decision:

“One of the major reasons that I did not move AB 2291 this legislative session was that the Department of Justice and the California Gaming Commission did not have enough time to review the language and make relevant recommendations on the regulatory structure of the bill.”

His plan involves meetings in the months leading up to December so he can offer a more universal bill for the 2015/2016 session. The key issue, according to Jones-Sawyer, is the bad actor language.

Does he believe that his new bill will be “the one”? His confidence, or lack thereof, is striking. Instead of pinning hopes on 2015, he instead asks all parties to remain patient. “We have come a long way,” he admitted, “but we have to be patient so we can get this right. Setting a standard in California that will be an example for the entire nation is my ultimate goal.”

While this sounds like the ultimate online poker legislation will be fair to all and inclusive of all parties and concerns, it also sounds like 2015 is far from a promise for it to happen.

Speaking of Bad Actors (Ahem, Newsweek)

As states like California experience their own setbacks with regard to legalizing online poker, national news articles that take over the cover of a magazine like Newsweek don’t help the cause, either. “How Washington Opened the Floodgates to Online Poker, Dealing Parents a Bad Hand” by Leah McGrath Goodman is a biased piece of writing that leads with a cover photo of a young, sad boy holding a tablet with a poker hand displayed on it.

Many writers in poker have tackled the rebuttals to the story, so there is no need to do it again. Suffice it to say that articles that serve as scare tactics for online poker and gaming in the United States do nothing to encourage states to pursue legislation that will regulate a currently rogue industry and pursue extra revenue for their states.

WPT Legends of Poker Feeling the Chainsaw Effect

The Legends of Poker is the Bicycle Casino’s largest tournament series of the year, and it culminates in a Main Event with the WPT. The series actually started on July 28 and has been seeing a fair turnout.

The Main Event begins on Saturday, August 23. The buy-in is $3,500 + $200. The problems begin with the casino noting a $4 million “estimated” prize pool, which looks like a guarantee but most certainly is not. Reentries will be allowed; if eliminated, a player can reenter on the following day. Players can also buy-in directly for Day 2 for $10K.

Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler was so angry about the “Quantum Reload” tournament that he decided to boycott the WPT event and write an open letter to WPT President Adam Pliska about it. He noted that players who “struggle to make it” through the first day of play and advance then have to face “a whole new wave of skilled players” who can buy in and start fresh. He claims this gives an edge to “deep pocketed skilled pros” over regular tournament grinders.

The Bike Tournament Director Mo Fathipour responded to say that the poker economy is evolving and allows players of all skill levels and bankrolls to play. He claims the Quantum Reload concept “has been a huge success for the Bicycle Casino throughout our poker series.”

It is unclear as to whether Kessler’s protest will have much effect on the overall field.

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been writing about poker for nearly a decade, including extensive work as a freelancer, where Jennifer has worked for numerous gaming-related websites, magazines, and blogs with a focus on players, news, and interesting stories. Follow Jennifer on Google+ and Twitter.

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