After years without online poker, California is the latest US state that might follow the path of Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada that made the game legal.
There was little progress on this matter in the past few years despite some attempts to pass legislation especially in 2015. However, there are signs this could change in 2016 as a new bill sparked dialogue between all parties involved. One of the most important factors is the stance of the California horse racing industry the local racetracks insisted to be able to offer online poker in the past.
New Online Poker Bill
Assemblyman Adam Gray (pictured below) is the person responsible as he introduced the new online poker bill.
It suggests that the game should be regulated and legal instead of forbidden as it currently stands.
(Note: UpswingPoker fully supports the efforts of Assemblyman Gray, and believes his position to be just and in the best interest of all Californians.)
The bill AB2863 has received almost instant support of the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians that released a statement of approval.
According to the organization the proposal is sensible and a step in the right direction as it covers all the important aspect of a possible regulation. Protection of minors and addicts and a safe environment for the regular player are among the priorities in Gray’s project. The full text of the bill can be found here.
The current bill is an updated version of the one that passed a committee vote last year, but there wasn’t further development. It was limited to poker only and not online gambling in general. Operators have to comply to a certain set of rules such as 24/7 support, player identity verification and employers located in California.
Other major points that were kept are the 15% from the gross revenue tax that the state would collect and also the requirements for the license.
Operators would have to deposit $15 million that would go to the 15% and also pay other fees. There also must be problem gambling and regulatory services available to all customers. The initial license would be valid for 7 years and there is a limit of two brands that can be launched under one license.
Benefits for the Horse Racing Industry
The major difference in this year’s proposal is that the horse racing industry in the state would receive up to $60 million per fiscal year. However, the racetracks won’t be acting as poker online poker operators.
The system works as follows: the horse industry will receive 95% of the first $60 million collected and the other 5% go to the State Treasury. The money will be distributed between jockeys, racing employees and purses with the former getting the majority of it.
This is an entirely new idea as the industry was always an important part of the talks about online poker. The racetracks always insisted on being able to offer the service and have been against receiving funding instead. It is unclear how the tracks would react to the current bill and this is one of the crucial points for success.
Even if they do agree with that approach, it is unclear how this would work. The main question is if that amount could be reached within an year or is an unrealistic target.
Considering the situation since the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006, any attempts to regulate online poker can be considered good. The major source of hope is the willingness of local authorities, big names from the industry and the tribal casinos to find a way to legislate the game.
There are lots of uncertainties, though, and the most crucial is the reaction of the California horse racing industry. Right now, there are no indications in this regard, but it seems there will be progress in 2016. Let’s hope the bill will go all the way, but only time can tell if this will actually happen.
I’m Matt “Checkmate” Colletta. I’ve been playing poker professionally since about 2004.
As one of the poker pros on UpswingPoker.com, my goal here is to help transform at least one hobbyist poker player into a self made millionaire.