California has two potential online poker bills, which if passed, will launch legalized real money online poker in the state. The only U.S. states to have a regulated online poker market is Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey. Combined these three states have a population of 12 million people. Compare this to California which has a population of 38 million.
Considering the larger group of online poker players in California, it would be reasonable to expect that more operators could be viable as they wouldn’t be faced with the liquidity problems that smaller sites in some of the other states have had to deal with.
Although Las Vegas may be the capital of gambling in America, the state of California has a rich gambling history. As a matter of fact, the first true slot machine was said to have appeared in San Francisco, California in 1905. Poker is also a popular past time, and California is home to the Commerce Casino, which is the largest card room in the world.
The truth of the matter is that the online poker market in California is worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually. California is the biggest US-state in terms of its population, so as you can begin to imagine there is a lot of interested parties that would like to see a regulated online poker in California.
According to research and consulting firm Academicon, legalized online poker in California could generate $263 million in the first year and $384 million within 10 years. It should go without saying that there is a lot of money involved in online poker in California, with early estimates suggesting that there is around a million online poker players in California, and that number is very likely to grow with legalization.
In California, tribal casinos are scattered across the state, but they have been divided on the issue of legalizing online poker. In April, a hearing was held on the topic of legalizing online poker by a state assembly committee, and according to the latimes.com, the “most explosive issue still dividing California’s Indian tribes — whether PokerStars should be allowed to participate.”
The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuila Indians and the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians are in support of the bill (titled AB-2291), and the bill (titled SB 1366) has the support of other tribe casinos in the state, who are backing the legislation as it has been written.
California’s online poker bills have some differences but both require a substantial payment in order to become a licensed operator. This fee is waived for tribe casinos that have been operating poker games. Both bills also include “bad actor” clauses. They were first introduced by other state gaming regulators to penalize companies that were operating an internet gambling business to service Americans following the passage of the UIGEA.
PokerStars is yet to enter any regulated online poker market in the United States. An agreement was made with the Morongo tribe, Commerce Casino, the Hawaiian Gardens Casino, and The Bicycle Casino, who agreed to outsource their online poker real money gaming to the online poker site, however, the “bad actor” clauses drafted into the bills could mean the poker site will have to wait a while longer before receiving a license to operate in the regular U.S. poker market.
With that being said, PokerStars’ recent deal with Amaya has the potential to change things in California, since “significantly changed circumstances are demonstrated” under completely new ownership of the online poker giant.
As things stand right now, California’s online poker bills are in draft form and therefore could change drastically before being passed into legislation. Hopefully this happens sooner rather than later, as it makes sense for the state to extend its poker operations to provide a framework for online poker players in California.
To keep up with the legislation changes that affect online poker in California, you should visit onlinepokercalifornia.org for all the updates.