Prospects Dim for California Online Poker Bill in 2013
It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster August for online poker players in California.
First came the surprise news that California Senator Lou Correa had updated his placeholder legislation – SB 678 – to include a complete proposal for the regulation of intrastate online poker in California. And, to the delight of many, Correa’s bill did not contain the same level of anti-compacting elements present in so many past proposals to regulate California online gambling.
And then those hopes were doused just as quickly as they arose when the Poker Player’s Alliance made it clear that Correa’s bill was effectively off the table for the 2013 session.
While Correa has yet to confirm the PPA’s assertion, it seems highly unlikely that the PPA would issue such a definitive statement on the issue without a high degree of confidence in their information.
Correa bill did not appear to bridge disagreements between factions
One major clue that the Correa bill was unlikely to gain the required traction in the short time remaining in California’s 2013 legislative schedule could be found in the general approach the bill took toward regulation.
California is home to a highly fragmented gambling industry with myriad perspectives on how online gambling should be handled. For any bill to have a real chance in the California Legislature, that bill would have to make a concerted attempt to bridge some of those gaps and to give all parties a reason to offer their support – or at least withhold their opposition.
It was the sense of most who read Correa’s bill that it simply wasn’t focused on that level of compromise.
Public opposition to quick passage may have hurt
A failure to accommodate all parties may have been at the heart of the demise of Correa’s bill. But it was also very clear from the word go that Correa’s attempt to push through such a significant piece of legislation in such a short period of time would be controversial at best.
For example, a blistering editorial in the Press-Enterprise warned that “neither legislators nor average Californians should mistake Internet gambling for a public interest concern; the real issue is jockeying over private profits.”
While the PE admitted that online gambling is likely to come to California eventually, the editorial stressed that there was simply “no need to rush” a bill during the waning days of the 2013 session.
California slipping behind other states on the issue
California has been considering providing residents with some way to play legal online poker for the better part of five years, with multiple bills floated by multiple backers. At this point in time, no less than three separate initiatives are in various stages of being brought toward a vote.
But as California continues to wrestle internally with the issue, a number of other states are making concrete progress. Nevada is obviously live, allowing residents to play online poker for real money in a regulated environment. Delaware and New Jersey are expected to join shortly.
In fact, it’s possible that California could end up in the third or even fourth wave of U.S. states to regulate online gambling; Massachusetts seems to be moving along at a much faster clip that California, and industry insiders consistently point to Illinois as a state that could launch regulated online gambling within the next few months – assuming the political stars align favorably.
But time still remains in the session for action
Having said all of the above, a few facts still remain: One, powerful forces in California are interested in seeing the state regulate online gambling. Two, there’s still a fair amount of time left in the session, which doesn’t formally conclude until the 13th of September.
That’s not to say action is probable. In the current political climate, it may not even be plausible. But until California lawmakers head home for the year on September 13th, anything remains possible.
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