Online Poker Will Not Be California Dreamin’ In 2018

pug in lawn chair with shades

2018 is the end of an era. For the first time in a decade, the California legislature will not place online poker on the legislative menu.

According to Online Poker Report, a contingent of politically powerful California tribes “plan to oppose sports betting and other expanded gambling in the state unless and until their concerns about cardroom games and other issues are resolved.”

“There’s some other issues with tribes and cardrooms that probably need to be resolved before we can move forward with this thing [sports betting],” California Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer told OPR in a separate interview. “I’m hoping we resolve some of that this year.”

According to Jones-Sawyer, sports betting legislation is also unlikely in 2018. “If we have a favorable ruling in June, we’ll have the fall to work on any legislation beginning in 2019,” Jones-Sawyer said, adding that online poker legislation would come at the same time or after.

 Victory cigar continues to elude California

To say online poker is California’s white whale is putting it mildly.

Since 2008, California lawmakers have tried 16 times to legalize online poker:

  • 2008: The California Gambling Control/Intrastate Online Poker Legalization Act (AB 2026) is introduced by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine.
  • 2009: Draft legislation for the California Online Poker Law Enforcement Compliance and Consumer Protection Act is floated.
  • June 2010: The Internet Gambling Consumer Protection and Public-Private Partnership Act of 2010 (SB 1485) is introduced by Senator Roderick Wright.
  • December 2010: Internet Gambling Consumer Protection and Public-Private Partnership Act of 2011 (SB 45) is introduced by Senator Roderick Wright.
  • February 2012: Internet Gambling Consumer Protection and Public-Private Partnership Act of 2012 (SB 1463) is introduced by Senator Roderick Wright.
  • December 2012: Internet Gambling Consumer Protection and Public-Private Partnership Act of 2013 (SB 51) is introduced by Senator Roderick Wright.
  • February 2013: Authorization and Regulation of Internet Poker and Consumer Protection Act of 2013 (SB 678) is introduced by Senator Lou Correa.
  • February 2014: The Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2014 (SB 1366) is introduced by Senator Lou Correa.
  • February 2014: Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2014 (AB 2291) is introduced by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer.
  • December 2014: The Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2015 (AB 9) is introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gatto.
  • January 2015: The Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2015 (AB 167) is introduced by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer.
  • February 2015: An untitled shell bill (AB 431) is introduced by Assemblyman Adam Gray.
  • February 2015: An untitled shell bill (SB 278) is introduced by Senator Isadore Hall III.
  • January 2016: A full version of AB 431 is introduced by Assemblyman Adam Gray.
  • February 2016: The Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2016 (AB 2863) is introduced by Assemblyman Adam Gray and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer.
  • February 2017: The Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2016 – even though it was introduced in 2017 – (AB 1677) is introduced by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer.

No light at the end of the tunnel

The biggest problem the state faces is its size and the breadth of its gaming industry.

California has:

  • In the neighborhood of 100 licensed card rooms overseen by a bifurcated regulatory system.
  • More than 60 tribal casinos, some in major population zones and others in far-flung locales, and each with their own regulatory body.
  • A strong racing industry aligned with politically powerful unions.
  • A state lottery.

Complicating matters is the need for a 2/3 majority vote in the legislature to legalize online poker. That is tough given the deep-seated resentment and bad blood within this menagerie of stakeholders.

Whether it’s centuries-old inter-tribal grievances, built-up animosity between tribes and card rooms; or racing’s role in the online poker universe, there are so many moving parts, and so many longstanding feuds that getting all of these interests on the same page is akin to herding cats.

Basically, California’s online poker dreams might be dead well past 2018.

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Steve Ruddock

About

Steve Ruddock is an avid poker player and a veteran member of the gaming media. His primary focus is on the regulated US online casino and poker markets. He writes for numerous online and print publications, including OnlinePokerReport.com, USPoker.com, and USA Today.