Urgent Internet Poker Bill in California not Likely to Advance

Posted on August 21st, 2013 by Todd Wilkins

CaliforniaWith only three weeks left in the current legislative session, a California lawmaker has reclassified an online poker bill proposed in February as being urgent.

Despite Senator Lou Correa‘s desire to prompt lawmakers to seriously consider his online poker bill before adjourning next month, the L.A. Times has reported that SB 678 will likely land in the muck along with the rest of the state’s past attempts in recent years. Correa did manage to corral the support of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, who previously led the now defunct California Online Poker Association.

But another powerful native Indian organization, the California Tribal Business Alliance (CTBA) is not behind SB 678. The CTBA is rumored to be backing an online poker proposal that is still being drafted and has not yet been introduced.

The lack of cohesion among the Golden State’s tribal gaming interests has long been one of the reasons why Californians will be watching from the rail as Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey will be operating a number of online poker and gambling sites in coming months. Add to that the insistence of many tribes that horse racing interests be excluded from any online poker scheme in California and you have a recipe for delay and disaster.

The reclassification of SB 678 means that a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate who vote aye could allow the bill to become law. But no hearings have been scheduled on the matter and expiration of the current legislative session is drawing near.

First crack at debating the bill would fall to the Governmental Organization Committee, whose chairman is none other than Senator Roderick Wright. As many already know, Wright proposed a poker-only online bill of his own in December. Wright’s SB 51 permits racetracks to partake in the state’s Internet poker regime, which Correa’s SB 678 does not.

Some interesting aspects of the urgent proposal include the fact that certain provisions of the bill can be eliminated even after the measure is passed. Some provisions of the reclassified SB 678 include permitting interstate compacts, allowing California to opt in or out of federal Internet poker legislation that may come to fruition, all poker sites to launch simultaneously to ensure competitive balance, banning Internet cafes from offering poker, a 10% gaming revenue tax paid in monthly installments by all site operators, Indian tribes already in possession of gaming licenses not being subject to further scrutiny regarding suitability, and a bad actor clause setting Dec. 31, 2006 as the date in which gaming sites should have exited the U.S. market.

Although Correa amended his placeholder online poker bill of six months ago in an effort to move matters along quickly, it appears that the attempts of the nations’s largest populated state to enact Internet poker legislation will continue to stagnate. And the reason remains virtually the same; lack of common ground among the state’s tribes, cardrooms and racetracks.

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