Whether or not California will finally legalize online poker this year remains iffy at best, with industry experts divided on the odds of that happening.
Just a few months ago, several news reports indicated that 2014 might just be the year that tribes, cardrooms and the horse racing industry would be able to find common ground on the issue. In late September, Poker Players Alliance Executive Director John Pappas was quoted as saying that he
would be very surprised if an online poker bill didn’t make its way through the legislative process in early 2014 in the Golden State.
With the new year now upon us, several noted gaming experts have weighed in on the matter. Jeff Ifrah, a prominent gaming attorney who acted as co-counsel for Full Tilt Poker in the historic deal that saw the parent company of PokerStars acquire the assets of the beleaguered site in July, 2012 from the DoJ, puts the prospects of California joining the online poker party in 2014 at 50/50.
While a coin flip may not provide confidence to Californians who are clamoring to play regulated online poker, it may be seen as an improvement over the chances of Internet poker being legalized in the country’s most populous state in recent years. Senator Rod Wright has seen his last two online poker proposals hit a wall with regard to legislative advancement. Many considered the previous odds of Wright’s bills of gaining approval at well below 50%.
Yet another gambling law expert sees zero chance of online poker legalization in California in 2014. Whittier Law School Professor I. Nelson Rose recently told SFGate that since 2014 is an election year, it is likely that an important and perhaps controversial piece of legislation such as Internet poker will be placed on the back burner for a year or so.
However, for those who can wait even longer and choose to look on the bright side, Rose believes that 2015 will be the year that Californians will be legally looking at hole cards online.
I don’t have any doubt that regulation of Internet poker will eventually come to the Golden State, Rose said.
Still holding perhaps the biggest hand in California are the state’s powerful Indian tribes. They have been divided in recent years over whether online gambling might tomahawk some of the revenue already seen at their land-based gambling operations. That is the principal reason why California will likely consider only online poker and will not be looking at legislation that includes online casino games.
Whether you care to side with Pappas, Ifrah, or Rose is a matter of choice. In all fairness, Pappas made his prediction more than three months ago and may not still be of the opinion that an online poker bill will progress relatively soon. The other two experts made their comments much more recently. In any event, regulation of online poker in California in 2014 remains uncertain, but chances do seem to look better as time progresses.