Legislation of Online Poker Sites in California

Online Poker California Legislation

In August 2014, California Sen. Lou Correa announced that he would be shelving his online poker bill, SB 1366, due to the need for more time in achieving a consensus amongst the state’s various gambling interests. Because of term limitations, Correa will not be able to return to refine the bill, which had been debated in the state legislature for five years.

Later that month, Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer, champion of the bill known as the Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2014, decided to pull his legislation as well, citing the same concerns as Correa.

Fortunately for California’s online poker players, Jones-Sawyer is already working on a new bill, and is confident that all parties can come to an agreement on acceptable language for the legislation before the next session in December.

The main sticking points Jones-Sawyer will need to settle revolve around the inclusion of a bad actor clause, and whether or not horseracing operators will be allowed to participate in the industry. PokerStars is lobbying hard against bad actor language, which would effectively lock it out of the state. The online poker behemoth has formed an alliance with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and three of California’s biggest brick-and-mortar cardrooms in its quest to open up shop in the Golden State.

With the withdrawal of the aforementioned bills, there is currently no online poker legislation pending. The prevailing opinion among industry observers, though, is that all competing interests will reach a compromise and pass a California online poker bill sometime in 2015.


Online Poker Legalization Status

The status of online poker legislation in California is not cut and dry. In other words, there are several components that need to be considered before providing a conclusive answer to the question – is gambling legal in California? For starters, the definition of legal needs to be understood. When it comes to legality of online poker in California one has to consider whether legal sanctions exist for playing online poker, and how this is enforced.

In order to ascertain if online poker is illegal, it is necessary to see if regulations were passed by government to prohibit online poker gaming. Another important issue to consider with the question: is gambling legal in California, is the issue of regulation of online poker sites in California. Regulation and prohibition are completely different; the former allows for online poker sites to operate within a legal framework, with constraints, while the latter prohibits the operation of online poker rooms.

The law as it stands does not prohibit legal online poker gaming in California, because it was overturned by a federal court of appeals a decade ago. And, the court ruled that the law was not applicable to online poker sites. However the conflict arose when the Department of Justice used its sweeping authority to clamp down on online poker sites operating in US cyberspace during the infamous Black Friday. Since then, the Department of Justice has walked back its position, and attested that the Federal Court of Appeals was indeed correct in its ruling.

By doing so, the Department of Justice has laid the way for legal online poker. The legalese is especially important in this arena, because many laws that were enacted relating to online poker were expressly targeting unlawful gambling. Now that the DOJ does not consider online poker to be unlawful, even the constraints of the UIGEA no longer hold water. It should be borne in mind that there are several states across the US that expressly forbid online poker; California is not one of them. A blanket assessment of the legal status of online poker in the USA would be that it is legal, but it varies from state to state. Legal poker online in California is perhaps best defined by the fact that it is not illegal.