Is Online Poker Legal In California?
As of February 2015, online poker is not explicitly legal in the state of California. Lawmakers, however, have introduced four bills during this legislative session which would all legalize the industry in the Golden State if successful.
California is seen as one of the most likely states to regulate iGaming in 2015. For over six years, legislators have introduced Internet poker bills, but the state’s gambling stakeholders, including Indian tribes, horseracing operators and card rooms have not been able to come to an agreement on the terms of a specific piece of legislation.
State Sen. Roderick Wright was one of the state’s first champions of Internet poker, introducing the Internet Gambling Consumer Protection Public-Private Partnership Act in 2010, then reintroducing it in 2011. Wright was later accused of voter fraud, but floated his bill again in 2012 and 2013. The senator was eventually convicted of the voter fraud offenses and was forced to step down from his post.
Sen. Lou Correa and Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer took the lead on iPoker in 2013 and 2014, but were unable to reach a consensus amongst the state’s gambling interests. The two lawmakers scrapped their 2014 legislation, but Jones-Sawyer has filed another online poker bill, AB 167, which could see some movement this year.
While iPoker is not specifically legal in California, the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel tribe believes state gaming law to be flexible enough for it to offer real money online poker and online bingo to anyone inside California. In November, the tribe launched Desert Rose Bingo, a real money online bingo site, and has threatened to start accepting real money bets on its online poker site, PrivateTable.com, as well.
Desert Rose Bingo was quickly targeted by California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, who was granted an injunction against the site after arguing that it had broken state and federal laws. Further demonstrating the state’s opposition to gray area online gambling sites, Assemblyman Mike Gatto included in his online poker bill, AB 9, a clause which would deny licensing to tribes which have opened such rogue sites.
When will online poker in California be legal?
Momentum is building for the passage of an online poker bill in California, but the Golden State’s gambling operators are still squabbling over the issue of “bad actor clauses”, which would block sites like PokerStars, and the question of whether to bring horseracing tracks into the fold.
In February, Sen. Isidore Hall and Assemblyman Adam Gray introduced SB 278 and AB 431, identical bills which are effectively container shells that will house the language that the state’s gambling interests agree upon. The participation of the two lawmakers is a positive development, since they wield considerable power in the state legislature as chairmen of the Governmental Organization Committees.