With Thanksgiving behind us, Americans are looking forward to the Christmas holiday season. Online poker supporters are also keeping an eye on developments at the state and National level to see whether any “Christmas surprises” may come our way. Below are the three big issues that will be tracked during the holiday season.
Will PokerStars Receive Approval By Year’s End in New Jersey
A story watched by everyone in the poker industry as well as California stakeholders is when PokerStars will receive approval in New Jersey. First, we heard the site was launching in September, then October and now the word is early 2015. Can we get a simple yes or no on their license first?
State Senator Ray Lesniak claims that Governor Christie is holding up matters and recently even hinted that Christie was giving Sheldon Adelson time to work some RAWA magic. If there is any truth to this statement, we may have to wait until after the Lame Duck session before official word on PokerStars comes to light.
California stakeholders are most interest in this development because they want to see what impact the site will have on the New Jersey iGaming industry. Most assume PokerStars will dominate the industry and become the top site nearly immediately. Should this happen, this could confirm Tribal fears regarding their ability to compete.
Lame Duck and RAWA
More importantly than PokerStars entry into the United States is whether Congress will actually move on the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA). Most recent reports would suggest that the bill is all but dead and is receiving resistance from Republicans. However, as Congress proved with the UIGEA, the bill could still be attached to some other piece of legislation before the end of the session.
For those that may only lightly follow legal matters regarding online poker, RAWA would essentially the old school opinion that the Federal Wire Act applied to online gambling. A December 2011 memo from the Department of Justice deemed that the Wire Act only applied to sports betting.
Unless an exemption is made for online poker, a passage of this bill would not only kill any efforts in California or other states to legalize the game but it would also reverse the legislation passed in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware.
Next Attempt to Legalize Online Poker in California
While the next legislative session doesn’t begin until 2015, some believe that a new bill will be floated sometime in December. Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer is currently expected to be the primary champion for online poker in the legislature and has hinted that a bill could be coming in December. Even if a draft is issued in December, that is just the beginning of what could become a lengthy process of negotiations between most interested stakeholders.
The next bill must address both the issue of horse race track participation and the bad actor clause. The horse racing industry wants in and has already made their intentions clear that they will fight to be included. While Tribes have reportedly wanted to keep them out to stifle competition, odds are that they will not get their way.
Everything seems to come back to the bad actor clause and that will likely be the case in 2015. The early draft will help indicate how big of a fight legislators will have on their hands with tribes. Many are against PokerStars and want a strong bad actor clause. The San Manuel Tribes recently defected and joined the Morongo in support of PokerStars.
They claim that their position changed due to the Amaya purchase. The question now remains whether other Tribes are beginning to have a change of heart on the matter. Things could get really interesting should other tribes start to defect to the PokerStars coalition.