Regulated Online Poker in California will Not Happen in 2014

Sen. Lou Correa’s decision to shelve Senate Bill 1366, the online poker legalization proposal that he himself authored, had quashed hopes of seeing regulated Internet-based poker games happening in the state of California this year.

The State Democratic Senator from Sta. Ana who also heads the Senate Governmental Organization Committee that screens all legislative gambling proposals, explained that SB 1366 still needs polishing in order to win votes. However, this year’s legislative session is about to adjourn within less than a month’s time, which obviously is not sufficient to make the major changes that could elicit a general agreement among Indian casino operators and card clubs.    

Senator Correa remarked that online poker is a vital public policy and it is quite important to make certain that such a policy should be properly executed. However, since this is the final year of Senator Correa’s second term as a member of California’s State Senate, he will not be around to see the bill through in next year’s legislative session.

Professor I. Nelson Rose, a Full Professor at Whittier Law School and widely known in the global gambling industry as a topnotch expert on gambling and gaming law, had commented beforehand about the implausibility of regulated Internet-based poker becoming a reality in California this 2014.

The Underlying Reasons

Thirteen major California Indian tribes including those that previously disagreed to the legalization of Internet poker in the state had formed a coalition, and came to an agreement that they will give their support to the proposed laws for legalizing poker.

However, a coalition led by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians remains opposed to some of the provisions stated in the bill, particularly the “bad actor” clause that automatically disqualifies PokerStars from participating in California’s proposed online poker industry. The Morongo Band which inked a partnership deal with PokerStars prior to Amaya’s acquisition of the online poker site, along with the Bicycle Cub and the Commerce Club remains adamant in opposing provisions, which the coalition claims as “not in the best interests of consumers or the state.”   

Still, the coalition of 13 Indian tribes that support the two separate legalization bills passed by Senator Correa and by Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer Sr. (D-Los Angeles) has expressed willingness to wait until 2015. The 13-member coalition stated that their tribal leaders have been in consultation with the lawmakers who authored the bill, and have come to a conclusion 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.” 

Other Factors Affecting California’s Online Poker Bill

Another major setback to the passing of SB1366 is the removal of Sen. Roderick Wright from his position as Chairman of the Governmental Organization Committee last February. The Democratic Senator from Inglewood who is a major proponent of the legalization initiatives, was found guilty of the charges of voter fraud and perjury filed against him in 2010, to which he may face up to eight months in prison.

As Professor Rose had previously opined, “The politics of this aren’t right for this to get rushed through by the end of this year.” Considering that casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is currently paying lobby firm Mercury Public and has enlisted former California lawmakers and officials to support his campaign against the legalization of any form of online gambling. 

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