California’s economy is larger than that of most nations, so it’s no surprise that it has become a major target of gambling interests.
From Native American tribes that want to market their products across the state to online gambling companies that see California as one of the few states that could fully support Internet poker on its own.
That means there’s never a quiet year when it comes to California’s gaming industry, and 2014 was no exception.
Online Poker Stalls Again
We have all become accustomed to the ebb and flow of the battle over online poker in California.
For the past few years, we’ve seen bills emerge, various gaming interests in the state complain about different aspects of the legislation, and little progress in the state legislature, as lawmakers had little interest in championing such a divisive issue.
But 2014 saw coalitions start to emerge, giving fans of online poker at least a little hope that the state’s gaming industry was inching towards a consensus.
In June, 13 Indian tribes in the state signed on to legislation that would regulate online poker in California.
This was a major event, as it unified tribes that had previously disagreed over what should appear in such a bill.
Unfortunately, the regulations they came up with didn’t sit well with everyone else.
Their law would include a bad actor clause, something that remains a non-starter for PokerStars and their allies in the state.
The bill would also mandate that only those who operate a casino or a card room in the state could run an online poker room for California residents, a move that generated stiff opposition from the state’s powerful horse racing industry.
That meant that the same story played out yet again in 2014: there was no consensus, bills saw little movement in the state legislature, and nobody even came close to making regulated online poker in California a reality.
Get ready for another round of talks in 2015, though: Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale) has already introduced the first Internet poker bill of the new legislative session.
Santa Ysabel Tries a New Online Gambling Path
With the state government failing to regulate online gambling the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel decided to launch Internet gaming in their own way.
Citing federal law and their own tribal sovereignty, the Santa Ysabel announced this summer that they would offer online poker from their reservation to all California residents.
It took the tribe a while to get things started, but by the end of the year, working online bingo and poker sites were running, showing that the Santa Ysabel tribe was serious about their attempt to generate revenue through Internet gambling.
But how long those sites will remain in business is still in question: both state and federal authorities have said the sites are illegal, and vow to fight the tribe over the issue in court.
Perhaps the most important gaming issue in California this year dealt with exactly where Native American tribes could build casinos in the state.
Voters in the state soundly rejected Proposition 48, which would have allowed the North Fork Rancheria Band of Mono Indians to build a resort casino complex near Fresno, about 40 miles away from their reservation.
For opponents, the proposition was one that had the potential to set a dangerous precedent; the tribe, on the other hand, said that it only dealt with their one specific casino, and that other tribes wouldn’t be able to follow in their footsteps so easily.