View California’s Online Poker Back-Story in Our Infographic
While legalizing online poker in California has been a long time in the making, Golden State lawmakers in 2015 are closer than ever to make the industry a reality. But the first attempts to regulate the game inside California go back all the way to 2009. In our exclusive infographic below, we trace the entire history of the fight to legalize Internet poker in the state. Here’s what you need to know:
In the beginning
Even after the UIGEA was passed in 2006, online poker was still going strong inside the US. It was in 2009 that California began to consider the possibility of making online poker explicitly legal through the California Online Poker Law Enforcement Compliance and Consumer Protection Act. While the movement never picked up steam, it put online poker on California lawmaker’s radar.
Roderick Wright carries the online poker torch
In 2010, the effort was picked up by State Sen. Roderick Wright, who introduced the first online poker bill in the state assembly: The Internet Gambling Consumer Protection and Public-Private Partnership Act of 2010. Later that year, Wright was indicted by grand jury on a variety of charges related to voter fraud. Authorities alleged that the Sen. had lied about his city of residence in order to represent the district of Inglewood while living in the more upscale Baldwin Hills neighborhood.
Even while facing serious criminal charges, Wright persisted in his fight for online poker, updating his previous bill for the year 2011.
On April 15 of that year, the Department of Justice seized the domains of PokerStars, Ultimate Bet and Full Tilt Poker, a day which poker players have dubbed “Black Friday.” Federal agents had infiltrated the payment processors used by several poker sites which had allowed Americans to continue playing poker online. The operation resulted in Ultimate Bet and Full Tilt Poker closing their doors, with PokerStars paying over $700 million to the DOJ to acquire FTP and have civil complaints against it dropped.
The next October, an online poker proposal was floated by the short-lived alliance of tribes and cardrooms dubbed the California Online Poker Association (COPA).
Wire Act decision opens the door for regulated US online poker
In December 2011, the DOJ made an important clarification on the Wire Act of 1961, explaining that the legislation should only be applied to prohibit sports betting, not online poker. That ruling gave the green light for US states to legalize the game if they choose to do so. Nevada was the first to launch a legal iPoker site, with Delaware and New Jersey following close behind.
In California, though, the state’s gambling stakeholders weren’t able to agree on language for their own bill, with each trying to secure the biggest piece of the online poker pie. In 2011, Wright was back with an updated version of his Internet Gambling Consumer Protection Act, but the bill failed to gain a foothold.
Sen. Lou Correa and Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer take the reins
In 2013, the debate continued, with State Sen. Lou Correa picking up where Wright left off. Online poker’s new champion would introduce the Authorization and Regulation of Internet Poker and Consumer Protection Act of 2013.
Correa again introduced online poker legislation in 2014, with the Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2014. Later that year, Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer teamed up with Correa, introducing identical legislation in the house.
Gambling stakeholders at odds
But the state’s gambling operators were still at odds with each other, and could not form a consensus around a bill. Jones-Sawyer and Correa chose to scrap the legislation in August of that year, citing the need for more time to refine the legislation.
That brings to the present day, where four online poker bills have been introduced in the state assembly. The first (AB 9) was floated by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, the second by Jones-Sawyer (AB 167), and the final two by Sen. Isadore Hall and Assemblyman Adam Gray.
If California’s gaming providers can agree on the issue of bad actors and whether or not horseracing tracks will be included, 2015 could be the year that online poker legislation finally goes through.