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How High is the Hype for Regulating Online Poker in California?

29 May 2010 by Devon Chappell

Introducing the chest...err...face of California's poker scene: Jennifer Tilly

Introducing the chest...err...face of California's poker scene: Jennifer Tilly

With all the talk about the impending enforcement date of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) this upcoming Tuesday, it seems that motions to consider regulating online gambling both on a federal and State level are springing up left and right. Well, if there ever was a time when online gambling in the States stood a good chance of being regulated, now is it.

The only thing I’m wondering is this: Since when were individual State’s permitted to offer online casino games under their own jurisdiction? Apparently, since forever. Making all the internet poker headlines right now is a bill being penned at this very moment that would essentially legalize online poker in the State of California.

Following last week’s House Ways and Means Committee hearing to consider the prospects of taxing internet betting (which apparently went over pretty well), the word on the streets is that although the UIGEA bans “illegal online gambling” on a federal level, State’s still have the right to regulate on their own accord. Okay, so maybe I’m the only one that has been in the dark about this, but I thought that State’s couldn’t do anything to regulate online gambling so long as the UIGEA was in effect.

But than again, perhaps it all amounts to hesitancy on the part of State government officials faced with trying to pass a highly controversial issue which the federal government and no other StateĀ  has even attempted doing. Whatever it comes down to, just as is this is the best time to get regulation going in the States, no other State is better suited to pass online gambling legislation than the State of California.

Stepping up to the plate on behalf of California, is Senator Rod Wright, who leads the committee that overseas gambling in California. Senator Wright’s aforementioned bill, specifically calls for the regulation of online poker, which would no doubt make a huge dent in the State’s $19.1 billion budget gap through June 2011.

Differing from a tribal initiative that would create an intrastate poker network, Wright’s bill would give the State Department of Justice the means to award 5-year contracts to three California-based online poker room operators, who would obviously have to meet financial and technical requirements. No doubt, there are online poker rooms monitoring the situation very closely and ready to set up shop in California. They certainly aren’t knocking on the Dept. of Justice door just yet, as getting an online poker network up-and-running could take two to three years, especially if there are challenges to the legislation.

Possible resistance could come from tribal leaders, some of whom fear that legalized online poker would steal revenue from their land-based casinos. Furthermore, there is speculation that Wright’s bill violates past agreements that limit competition from casinos. As for getting California poker players to buy-in, that’s another matter altogether. The bill would make gambling at non-State licensed online poker rooms a crime. Needless to say, if the State-licensed rooms aren’t giving players enough incentive, they will likely be inclined to play somewhere else online, regardless of being illegal or not.

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