California Online Poker Hearing Seen as Positive

California Online Poker HearingThe road to online poker legislation in California may still be a long one, but progress was made in a hearing Wednesday before a state committee.

The Governmental Organization Committee of the California State Assembly called 33 witnesses to testify regarding Public Policy and Fiscal Implications of Authorizing Intrastate Internet Poker in California. Those witnesses ran the gamut of insiders in the regulated market of Nevada and New Jersey to the California Indian tribes who have been instrumental in delaying progress on any potential Internet poker bills by failing to find common ground among themselves.

Committee chairman Isadore Hall III prefaced the meeting by stating that the focus would be on obtaining educational insights from the witnesses as opposed to deliberating either of two ipoker bills currently before the legislature, SB 1366 or AB 2291. He did say, however, that as the nation’s largest state the rest of the country is watching and that California would be well-advised to create an Internet poker bill that can be viewed as a national model by the other states.

Testimony came from the likes of Mark Lipparelli, former honch of the Nevada Gaming Control Board; Tobin Prior of Ultimate Gaming; Borgata Chief Operating Officer Tom Ballance; Chairman Mark Macarro of the Pechanga Band of Luisefio Indians; Morongo Band of Mission Indians representative Robert Martin; Andy Abboud, the mouthpiece of Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson and his Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling; and California Office of Problem and Pathological Gaming spokeswoman Terri Sue Canale.

The variety of witnesses assured that nearly every possible issue concerning online poker legislation in the Golden State was mentioned. Some of the matters cited included the need to protect minors and problem gamblers from accessing poker sites, the current unregulated U.S. market, law enforcement efforts to prevent fraud, the hurdles of licensing operators, the potential revenue possibilities that roughly a half dozen poker sites could generate, clauses regarding bad actors, and possible unification among tribes.

Macarro indicated that tribal leaders may soon be reaching an agreement to solidify their combined interests. However, his testimony came on the same day that the [geolink href=””]Morongo Band of Mission Indians reached an agreement with industry giant PokerStars[/geolink] and three state card rooms to provide online poker in any regulated scheme.

There are still a number of concerns that need to be worked out before California joins Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware in offering regulated online poker to its residents. But on a bright note, a number of committee members did concur that the Golden State needed to move before federal lawmakers perhaps get involved.

Whether the issues that need to be addressed and resolved can still happen during the 2014 legislative session remains to be seen. Some observers believe it may be possible if the stakeholders can come to an agreement. But that’s been the sticking point for a number of years and it may drag on into 2015 if past history is any indication.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett