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Back to Drawing Board for Online Poker in Cali

18 June 2012 by Devon Chappell

california-flag-bear2The race to become the first U.S. State to legalize online poker has taken a detour in California. One of the more likely States to be able to sustain a formidable online poker network, California still has some kinks to work out in the legislation – the Internet Gambling Consumer Protection and Public-Private Partnership Act of 2012 (SB1563) – that was introduced earlier this year.

While there is no denying that Californian’s support online poker, the problem in California is that there simply are too many interests. With both private companies and tribal gaming operators seeking a cut of what is estimated to be a $13 Billion industry, generated in annual wagers by California’s 2 million online poker players, it’s been very difficult to make everyone happy.

Trying to make this happen is California Senate Policy Committee Chairman, Roderick Wright, who introduced the current bill on the table, along with Senate President pro tem, Darrell Steinberg. It was Wright who also pulled the bill before it’s first committee hearing scheduled tomorrow, commenting that, “the bill needs more work”.

Largely opposed by California gaming tribes who have exclusive rights to offer gaming on video devices, SB1563 has a lot of language that opens the door for the private market – namely, the California Online Poker Association, whose coalition of 46 casino operators, including the popular Hollywood Park Casino, have been pushing hard for regulation. But Indian tribes, like the Morongo and San Manuel bands of the Mission Indians, are also members of the Coalition, and have been pushing just as hard.

The coalition as a whole has made nearly $8 million in political contributions and gifts to lobbyists in Sacramento. In the last year alone, California casino operators have made over $1.3 million in contributions to the Democratic State Central Committee, which Senator Steinberg will heavily rely on for his campaign to maintain control of the California legislature.

Needless to say, it’s going to be difficult to make everyone happy in California. Perhaps the next draft of SB1563 will do a better job at it.

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