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Poker Lobby Approves California Poker Bill

6 January 2011 by admin

california-flag-bear2One of the online poker bills circulating through the California legislature now has the support of a powerful gambling lobby group. The California Gaming Association (CGA) has publicly endorsed the poker bill proposed by state Senator Lou Correa, SB 40.

Lobbyist Rob Ross, the Executive Director of CGA, said that the poker bill “will help revitalize the state’s economy while protecting players.” He added that the bill is an “opportunity for licensed card clubs to participate in a new and rapidly evolving technology, should they elect to do so.”

The bill, if passed, would set up a regulatory framework for intrastate online poker in California. Millions of Californians are already planning online poker on overseas websites, which means the state is losing out on a lot of revenue. Since the state is in dire economic straits, they need all the money they can get. California is being crushed by a record $28 billion deficit, 12% unemployment and unsustainable entitlement programs.

For that reason, they are eager to get their hands on money Californians wager on poker online. The bill would have the California Gambling Control Commission provide licenses to existing poker card clubs in the state and those who become licensed can provide Internet poker to California residents.

lobbyistsDespite the statements of a lobbyist that the bill will protect players, a troubling aspect of it is that it would limit the choices of players. Currently there is no state law banning online poker, so California residents can play on any poker website they choose. The bill, though, would make it illegal to wager real money on any poker website that is not licensed by the state of California. Doing so would be a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison plus a $10,000 fine.

Not only is the criminalization of playing online poker at a website not licensed by California troubling, but another part of the bill that worries me is that it would increase taxes. Creating a regulatory framework is expensive, and to pay for it, the bill would require “a change in state statute that would result in a taxpayer paying a higher tax.” How much of an increase it would be is not yet determined.

SB 40 is the only poker bill in the state endorsed by the CGA, a lobbyist that represents more than 75% of the card room clubs in California. It is not the only online poker bill, though. Rod Wright has reintroduced SB 45, a new version of a bill that stalled in June of last year.

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