The long awaited legalization of online poker in California appears to be a dead issue for 2014, at least. The chief sponsor of the Senate bill has withdrawn SB 1366 legalizing statewide online poker. The Los Angeles Times recently broke the disappointing news.
While supporters have feared that, with so little time left in the 2014 for the legislature to come to agreement, unless compromise occurred quickly, the two bills might die in committee. Now, their worst fears have apparently come to fruition.
Entire Online Poker Community Affected
While online operators and players are disappointed, the news goes beyond California. With expectations that California would join the other three pioneering states, Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey, in regulating online poker, the legislative roadblocks could not be overcome in a timely manner.
The State Senator has not only sponsored three such bills in the last three years, but he also leads the Senate Governmental Organization Committee, which is responsible for coordinating and clarifying this legislation. The realities of democracy affect this issue more than any private concerns.
For final legislation to pass, it must be approved by a majority of voting members and other parties with a stake in online poker regulations. Critics often have differing opinions on why this legislation may be inappropriate. This uncoordinated opposition has only increased the confusion and debate.
There are two major problems that have yet to be solved.
- Gaining approval of the Native American tribes seeking some specific language in the final legislation; and
- The inclusion or exclusion of a “Bad Actor” clause in final legislation. Since including “Bad Actor” clauses and the language therein is the exclusive purview of individual states, agreement on the clause and its language must be widespread.
These are long-standing issues that have generated strong, sometimes contentious debate among legislators, operators and the public alike. Agreement is necessary in 2015, if this legislation is to become reality.
For example, the 13 unified Indian tribes have been adamantly opposed to allowing horse racing tracks to participate in online poker licensing. Others believe race tracks should have equal opportunity to offer online poker rooms, if they wish and qualify for a license.
Glimmer of Hope
The California Assembly bill is still technically alive. However, this glimmer of hope is not bright. Since the bill (AB 2291 remains stuck in committee, with no hearing date set, time is running out on this version, also.
In typical political style, individual Senators and Assembly persons, along with the lobbies (Indian tribes and operators) want what they want when they want it. Whether legislation is forthcoming in 2014 or 2015, compromises are necessary. To date such reasonable compromise has been missing from the political debates.
Hopefully, the future brings more rational discussion and the realization that, for successful legislation to emerge, compromises in provisions and regulatory language are necessary. Typically, the legislature wants the lucrative tax money online poker would generate, but cannot agree on the details of a bill, however straightforward the issue may appear.