With its substantial population of more than 37 million, and a brick-and-mortar poker room presence up and down the state that supports its many poker aficionados, it may seem surprising how difficult it has been to get an intrastate online poker bill moving forward towards passage in the Golden State. In fact, California is considered possibly the only state with enough intrastate poker players to support a state-only online play potential, as opposed to other states (including Nevada and Delaware) that would probably need interstate games established to give them enough of a player base to support their online industry.
But difficult it has been, nonetheless. That hasn’t stopped California State Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood) from continuing to push for legalizing intrastate online poker, however; most recently in the form of his proposed SB 51 Intrastate Gambling measure, also known as the Internet Gambling Consumer Protection and Public-Private Partnership Act of 2013, that would allow for poker, and only poker, to be regulated in online play in California.
What’s New For Californian Online Poker This Time?
What’s different this time around from previous failed attempts to move such measures through the State Assembly? According to Wright, who discussed the bill at the recent 2013 National Conference of Legislators from Gaming States, it’s that finally more and more Indian tribes as well as other brick-and-mortar poker purveyors are starting to see the benefit, rather than the detriment, that online poker could potentially bring to their businesses. Studies conducted in the past have, in fact, shown that online poker play draws, rather than deters, land casino action as well.
So while Wright’s similar SB 1463 did not see the light of day in 2012, he now feels the new measure has a good chance of passage in 2013. Consensus on wording has been a sticking point in prior versions of the measure, at times causing Wright to even remove the bill from committee discussion due to lack of support.
On the pro side had been the California Online Poker Association (COPA), comprised of 31 state cardrooms and 29 Indian tribes joined together to lobby for passage of Internet poker legislation in 2012. Their stance had been that California would lose a potential 1,300 jobs and $1.4 billion in new revenues over the next ten years by failing to allow online play to be legalized and regulated. So much infighting and contention over what was or was not to be included occurred within COPA last year that the group was ultimately disbanded, a move that ironically may make it easier for state legislation to pass, according to Sen. Wright.
Wright also feels that state-by-state passage of online poker legislation is more in keeping with America’s general attitudes about gambling: that each state should be able to control its own gambling destiny. “The federal government should not be in the business of controlling or taking money out of the gambling revenues that are generated by the state,” said Wright. “That’s never been a federal process, and it shouldn’t begin now.” Wright similarly believes that interstate agreements should ultimately be decided state by state, without interference from the feds. Wright even sees an eventual international player pool agreement possibility that would allow for more around-the-clock games, given time differences around the globe.
Wright chairs the Senate Governmental Organization Committee, which oversees gambling issues.