California Online Poker Bill Scrapped for 2014
Supporters of online poker in California were dealt a blow yesterday when State Sen. Lou Correa dropped his bill which aimed to legalize the industry in the Golden State.
According to Correa, there wasn’t enough time to refine the legislation and find common ground among the state’s competing gambling interests before the end of this year’s legislative session. “Internet poker is an important public policy,” he said. “We need to make sure it’s done right.”
Brick-and-mortar cardrooms, horseracing operators, Indian tribes and online poker sites are all competing for the biggest slice of the California Internet gambling pie. Recently, 13 of the state’s tribes announced that they had come to a consensus on legislation which would lock out sites like PokerStars, who continued to operate in the US after the UIGEA was passed.
For its part, Stars has formed a coalition of its own, partnering with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and three large card clubs in an attempt open up shop in the potentially lucrative market. The online poker giant has asserted that its rivals don’t have consumer’s best interests at heart, and simply wish to gain a competitive edge by blocking its well-known brand.
The move to shelve the bill comes as no surprise to gambling expert I. Nelson Rose, who predicted that online poker legislation didn’t have the traction to pass in 2014. “The politics of this aren’t right for this to get rushed through by the end of this year,” he said. “The state is so large and there are so many tribes and they don’t agree on anything.” He added that since it was an election year, California lawmakers would be less likely to speak up on controversial issues like online gambling.
After the senator’s decision to sideline the bill, one alliance of tribes released a statement signaling its willingness to take things slowly. “Instilling public confidence in the integrity of state-sanctioned Internet poker is a fundamental principle of ours,” it said. “To that end and in consultation with the bill’s authors, our tribal leaders have concluded that rushing a bill in the closing days of this legislative session will not allow for the level of careful public examination and confidence an issue of this magnitude requires.”
A companion bill, introduced in February by Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer Sr., has also made the rounds in the legislature, but with its counterpart dead in the water, it’s unlikely to gain much support.