You never know where the next TKO is going to emerge from in the U.S. online gambling debate; and sometimes it comes out of left field. Such was the case when one of the online gambling movement’s best friends – California State Sen. Roderick Wright (D – Inglewood) was removed as chairman late last week from the Senate Governmental Organization Committee – the committee that oversees all of the Golden State’s gambling legislation. As one of the industry’s most ardent proponents, Wright has authored and submitted several pro-gambling bills for California over the past few years, including a very recent one, SB 51 – the Internet Gambling Consumer Protection and Public-Private Partnership Act of 2013 – which was a push for legalized Internet poker to move forward at last in California.
Wright Removed from Committee
After being convicted on eight counts of perjury and voter fraud last week in a case that centered around his actions during a 2007 – 2008 run for office, Wright was removed late last week by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D – Sacramento), who claims he made the decision after Wright himself requested the removal so he can focus on appealing the Los Angeles jury’s decision that concluded Wright had lied when signing forms that stated he had falsely listed himself as residing in one of his own rental properties in order to expedite a run for a 25th Senate District seat back in 2008.
For the online gambling community, this fall from grace for Wright cannot bode well for the already contentious issues that surround legal and regulated online play in California, that’s for sure.
This could cause delays in introducing new legislation for sites to operate in the state. But don’t count Wright – or online poker – as off the table by any means; just temporarily delayed. It could push getting a solid poker bill moving forward until 2015, however – and that does not have anyone in the online industry terribly happy.
But with Sen. Wright appealing the conviction, Internet poker is not going anywhere. While this will certainly be a setback, it is unlikely to stop online poker in its tracks.
Legal Online Poker Still Viable
While Sen. Wright’s issue are unfortunate, the forward momentum for online poker is not going back into the box. The state is looking at lucrative taxes and it is the backing of land-based casinos that, ultimately, will determine if online poker makes California its new home.
Prosecutors had accused Wright of falsifying voter registration and candidacy documentation during his recent trial, as well as of voting in as many as five elections using his Inglewood address that he was not technically allowed to vote in. They claimed the state senator was in fact residing in an upscale Baldwin Hills home during this time, and that the home was in a different district than the one in which he was running.
The 61-year-old Wright has maintained that he was only using the Baldwin Hills home for office space, and that it was not his primary residence.