California Internet Poker Bill – Tribal Coalitions and CA Senator Pushing for Passage

Even though the California Legislature has finished the 2013 session without ruling on Internet poker and online gambling legislation in the Golden State, many industry analysts and poker proponents both in California and elsewhere in the United States believe early 2014 passage of an Internet poker Bill is a foregone conclusion. John Pappas is the Executive Director of the nonprofit Poker Players Alliance (PPA) in the US, a local organization with powerful backers which has been a vocal proponent for legal Internet poker in the United States for some time.

The PPA recently pointed out that there are currently two bills and a draft legislation sitting before the California Capitol awaiting a decision. This makes three straight years that substantial support for legalized gambling online in California has been presented to the state lawmakers, but never has proposed legislation represented such a diverse group of individuals. California Senator Roderick Wright has long been an outspoken backer of Internet poker being legalized in his state, frequently pointing out the long and rich history of gambling in general, and poker specifically, in California.

He introduced State Bill 51 (SB 51) previously to California lawmakers, and in 2013 made necessary revisions to give the bill a wider base of potential supporters. The PPA and other industry analysts and watchdogs believe that this bill has the best chance for passage, and that in early 2014,= this piece of legislation will deliver legalized Internet poker in California. The state has more than 39 million residents, and is also a leader in tourism in the United States. This legislation would allow state residents and travelers located within California state boundaries to enjoy Internet poker play for real money, and there are at least two other major proposals on the table.

Senator Lou Correa has proposed a bill which speaks for a coalition of more than a dozen California Indian tribes, a powerful Native American Indian voting block in that state. The bill is similar in some ways to the Wright proposal, and is listed as SB 678. However, there are enough major differences between this piece of legislation and SB 51 that if one of these two bills is knocked down, it’s partner still offers some valid and attractive points. And a third group of American Indian tribes in California, including the influential Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, has drafted proposed legislation which also calls for statewide Internet poker, allowing for the possible inclusion of other forms of gambling in the future.

Obviously, California Indian tribes have a vested interest in ensuring their voices are heard regarding online gambling in California. Already operating brick-and-mortar casinos in California, their proposed legislation would protect the physical casino employees and owners’ interests, while giving state and local lawmakers significant income to fill their coffers. California has been hit financially just as hard as the other states in the US with the economic downturn of the last five years, and Internet gambling in USA’s most populous state would definitely be a multibillion dollar a year enterprise. Pappas, Wright, Correa and others have all recently stated that Internet poker is more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if” in the Golden State, and points to early 2014 for legal Internet poker legislation passage.