Between native Indian tribes with a virtual monopoly on poker revenue and a rapidly ticking timer which continues to rule out 2012 as a possibility for legalized online poker play in the state, California’s poker proponents are stuck between a clock and a hard place. However, one of the senators who authored the current online poker bill which awaits approval or rejection is not about to give up without a fight. Senator Rod Wright co-authored online intrastate poker Bill SB 1463 with state Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, and it currently stands against heavy opposition from Native American groups in California, as well as financial skeptics concerning online poker’s fiduciary promises.
The framework for the bill was changed several times in an attempt to gather more support from legislators, and the cash poor state could certainly use the estimated multibillion dollar payday that legalized poker is expected to deliver. However, state lottery proponents in 1984 promised that their cash cow would solve all financial ills in California, and yet the lottery provides only 1.5 cents of every education dollar there. Also, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007 signed multiple tribal contracts concerning casino gambling with promises of more government riches, and the financial delivery has been nowhere near what “The Governator” predicted.
Wright and Steinberg actually pulled bill SB 1463 from the Senate floor due to lack of supportback in June of this year, but Wright has not stopped pushing for approval since. Tribal proposal is not the only Indian sentiment which stands in the way of passage of the bill however. Many tribes agree with some form of online poker legislation in California, but lack of unity among tribal leaders and other powerful factions have seen Wright failing to make deals on several fronts. The senator claims that he has had verbal agreements “three or four times, but they have fallen apart.”
He stated that there is a huge trust issue among all parties involved at the current time, pointing out that the lack of trust, combined with a pervading sense of fear held by some parties involved, have effectively stalled any progress his bill has made. In an attempt to once again verbally put pressure on opponents of online poker in California, Wright recently pointed out that if the United States federal government should see fit to legalize online poker in the US on the federal level, California’s “opportunity to compete will have gone.”
Snell & Wilmer L.L.P. is monitoring the bill’s progress for several clients, and Harsh Parikh is one of their attorneys involved. Parikh recently declared the bill unofficially dead, citing that it was introduced on the last possible day in session this year, and will likely be reintroduced much earlier in the 2013 session. The bill’s authors wisely included an “urgency” clause, allowing immediate enaction as soon as the bill is passed, and technically there is still time for 2012 passage. Currently however, a growing financial governmental crisis in California and a supporting senator who is not willing to fold his cards yet together offer the greatest hope that 2012 will see legalized poker in the Golden State.