California Online Poker Likely Abandoned for 2015, PokerStars Continues Campaign

Posted on July 10th, 2015 by Jon Pineda
California online poker legislation shelved PokerStars

There are many moving parts and entities surrounding California online poker legislation, and the unwillingness to compromise has presumably led to iPoker being passed over until at least 2016. (Image: californians4ipoker.com)

California online poker becoming law in 2015 is about as likely as Chris Moneymaker’s river Ace that gave him the Full House and knocked out Phil Ivey during the 2003 Main Event, and while that unlikely feat happened, the slim chance of bringing iPoker to California before next year won’t.

The Governmental Organization Committee, the assembly group that overseas alcohol, Indian gaming, horseracing, gambling, and other issues, held a hearing on Wednesday, but online poker wasn’t discussed after both Assemblymen Mike Gatto (D-District 43) and Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-District 22) opted to pull their bills from the hearing agenda.

“I am cancelling next week’s hearing of my Assembly Bill 9,” Gatto said last week. “I believe this is the right thing to do at this point because there is no consensus.”

Cali iPoker: RIP

Gatto and Jones-Sawyer’s bills were similar in that they both sought to create a legal framework for online poker, but differed in their statutes relating to “bad actors,” the Internet card rooms that operated illegally in the United States following passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006.

Gatto included language that would have prevented bad actors, primarily that of PokerStars, while Jones-Sawyer sought to create a more open market.

With the state’s deficit hovering around $168 billion and economists forecasting that online poker could bring California more than $500 million annually upon market maturity, its passage seems to be rather straightforward.

Of course, that isn’t the case as the horse racing industry, Indian gaming, commercial gambling companies, and politicians have been squaring off, largely unwilling to comprise.

California is capable of supporting three to five online poker networks according to projections, so revenue sharing and affiliate programs will be a necessity to give a piece of the pot to all parties that wish to be involved.

But after the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, one of several tribal governments in favor of online poker, offered to share iPoker revenues with the horse racing industry, the response didn’t seem to indicate a pending relationship.

“Why should we have to compromise when we have a legal opinion that we’re legally entitled to participate as a licensee?” Robyn Black, a California lobbyist currently defending the horse racing industry said. “You can’t keep horse racing out.”

The ongoing feud among parties with seemingly no end in sight has led Gatto to get out of the debate for the time being. “I gave my word to both supporters and opponents of AB 9 that my goal was consensus, and that I would not move forward with anything that achieved less than that.”

PokerStars Awareness Campaign Unaware

While politicians are backtracking on bills in Sacramento, PokerStars is about to embark on a statewide tour to “create awareness for iPoker and support for legislation.” 11 stops on the “Let California Play!” circuit are currently scheduled, with PokerStars Team Pro and poker legend Daniel Negreanu billed on seven of the dates.

“It’s really important for poker players to make their voices heard among the decision makers in California,” Negreanu said. Apparently, we might need a louder mouthpiece.

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