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California Internet Poker – A Hard to Kill Topic

A proposed Internet poker bill for California has died in committee at the end of August, but it seems the topic of Internet poker in the Golden State is proving hard to kill. Even with the Republican National Committee staunchly announcing their stance that online poker and other forms of gambling in the United States be deemed illegal in all forms, many leaders in California’s gaming industry persist in keeping Internet poker alive in the minds of prospective players and legislators. In a recent interview with Card Player magazine, a source close to the California Internet poker legislative situation, speaking on a condition of anonymity, said that the top players in that state’s gaming industry have vowed to keep Internet poker front and center in the eyes of both California’s residents and their legislators.

The bill was moving forward until Indian tribes in the Califonia Tribal Business Alliance, who currently hold a virtual monopoly on gambling revenue in that state, could come nowhere near to agreeing on accepting online poker in any form. California has been termed the “sleeping giant” of web poker by at least one of its gambling regulators due to possessing far and away the largest possible Internet poker player pool. And while total agreement between California’s Indian tribes, racetracks and brick-and-mortar poker rooms is not needed for passage of online poker legislation, more than the current partial level of acceptance across those platforms is required to make California the third state behind Nevada and Delaware to pass favorable legislation and offer Internet poker legally.

California’s budget deficit has reached near catastrophic levels, and supporters of online poker as both an incredible source of revenue as well as an enjoyable adult pastime continue to point to the virtually billions of dollars that legislated and regulated Internet poker could bring to California. Senator Rod Wright (D-Inglewood) is the author of the defeated bill that will have to wait til 2013 to see a second life, and he vows to continue the fight. What started out as a comprehensive online gambling bill has already been compromised to cover online poker only, banking on strong support from the rich poker room history in that state. And although no bill has been passed, many forward thinking groups in California have already formed partnerships with out-of-state firms with online poker experience, laying the groundwork for quick entry into that state’s eventual online poker community.

It was not that long ago that PokerStars was the driving force behind a proposed bill right next door in Nevada that would create sort of a Bible of commandments and rules for web poker in the US. It even offered to give the Silver State a percentage of its global take, and legislators in Nevada agreed. However, everything was put on hold when that company’s online poker operations in the US were shut down on Black Friday in April of 2011. The only reason online poker in California and any other US state is even a viable discussion is thanks to the US Department of Justice flip-flopping their stance on the Wire Act on December 23 last year, which now allows that each individual state dictate their own online poker destiny.

But now that PokerStars has stepped in as the White Knight to reimburse millions of dollars in player account money that was allegedly squandered by Full Tilt CEO Ray Bitar, they are once again poised to enter online poker at the state level and soon as legislation in any prospective state allows. And the world’s premier online social gaming designer, Zynga, is headquartered in San Francisco and has been forming partnerships in advance of any legislation passage concerning online poker. Lawmakers in California have even reached out to Zynga officials for their input concerning online gaming. 2013 will be here before we know it, providing another chance for Internet poker passage, and it appears there are many viable proponents for online poker in California ready to get the conversation started as soon as the new year arrives.