Efforts to pass a bill regulating online poker in California have been sidetracked once again. Considered one of the most important states for the big picture, California has been going back and forth on the regulation issue for quite some time now. However, every significant effort seems to be stopped for one reason or another.
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Legislative session ends with no positive results
Proponents of regulated online poker in Cali had their hopes up about the recently concluded legislative session. The amended bill proposal by Assemblyman Adam Gray seemed to have covered great number of disruptive issues, finally opening a path for the legislation.
However, things started going down the hill once again.
Trying to appease all relevant stakeholders (or at least a majority of them), Gray and his team introduced a provision which would exclude the so-called „bad actors“ from the market for the period of five years. The clause is aimed directly at PokerStars, as they are the only „bad actor“ still in operation.
Although it initially seemed like the bill could get the required majority to move on, only a day after the amendments were introduced, Amaya, together with several Californian tribes, sent out a letter challenging the proposal as being unconstitutional and announcing their plans to start a lawsuit if the bill was to be passed.
Wash, rinse, repeat
Faced with strong and vocal opposition, members of the Assembly apparently decided to skip on the vote altogether, reintroducing the common theme in California. An online poker bill proposal passes the Committee, arrives to the Assembly, and the vote simply doesn’t happen.
Although we’ve written on the topic countless times before, the importance of legislation in California for online poker in the States cannot be overstated. It is the state that had the largest US players numbers in ’09 and ’10, and, according to Gray, there is some 1,000,000 Californians playing on regulated sites even today.
And that’s exactly what complicates the situation.
Realizing potential profits, no one is willing to give up their piece of pie in California. It is hardly surprising that Amaya, i.e. PokerStars, is prepared to fight a long and hard battle if necessary before throwing in the towel.
At the same time, there are many other adverse voices within the state, working to undermine legislative efforts. Some of them even put forth the argument that the regulation is only good for the gambling operators, while it doesn’t benefit players or the state in any shape or form.
Political games, money, and (no) poker
At this point in time, it seems as if there is no real solution to the Californian online poker stalemate. There are too many stakeholders and too many of those who are against the legislation. Everybody wants to have their say in the matter and to claim their share of the spoils.
What some of those involved parties fail to understand is that the time may be running out. According to a statement that California Nations Indian Gaming Association Chairman Steve Stallings gave to Card Player, there is a narrow timeframe to pass the legislation while there is still decent interest in online poker.
Failing to do so within a next couple of years, believes Stallings, could cause the opportunity to disappear forever. If people can’t play poker, they will gradually turn to other things and the interest levels will continue to decline.
There is no doubt that time is now for California to join other legalized states like Nevada and New Jersey, and for online poker compounds to be created. This would finally pave the way for the legislation on a federal level and create a serious legal framework.
It is high time for politics and selfishness to give way to reason and for Californians to finally be given a chance to play in a safe and protected online environment they deserve.