For yet another year it appears the effort to legalize Internet gambling in the wealthiest and most populous US state is headed nowhere.
California state Sen. Lou Correa has pulled the bill he reintroduced in the Legislature at the start of the lawmaking session, one of two that aim to make California the third state to authorize poker online and create an intrastate market experts believe would be the largest and most lucrative in the country.
A report in the Los Angeles Times said the senator decided that with less than a month left in the legislative session there was not enough time to make major changes and get consensus from the state’s powerful Indian casino tribes and the numerous card clubs to hold a vote this year.
Because of term limits, Mr Correa won’t be returning to Sacramento next year to revive his proposal.
A second pending bill that would legalize Internet poker was introduced early this year by Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer, but it too has not moved through the committee process and no hearing date has been set.
Whittier Law School professor and gambling law expert I. Nelson Rose had predicted California would not legalize Internet poker this year, in part because it is an election year, but also because disagreement remains among the tribes and other gambling interests about what a new law should look like. It would take a two-thirds vote to pass, which Mr Rose said is currently unlikely.
“The state is so large and there are so many tribes and they don’t agree on anything,” he said.
A coalition of some dozen major tribes who proposed legislation said they are willing to wait until 2015.
“In consultation with the bill authors, our tribal leaders have concluded that rushing a bill in the closing days of this legislative session will not allow for the level of careful public examination and confidence an issue of this magnitude requires,” the tribes said in a statement.
Research published last year and based on surveys of real-money players estimates the revenue potential of California online poker at upwards of US$263 million the first year, growing to more than $380 million by year 10. That’s probably conservative. A more recent study commissioned by several casino tribes forecasts a market worth $845 million by 2020.