While much of the poker world is currently focused on the WSOP in Las Vegas, there has been progress in regulated online poker in California.
Late last week, the Assembly Appropriations Committee said “aye” to AB 431, allowing the measure to advance to the floor of the Assembly for perhaps another vote. While that certainly sounds promising, several drawbacks remain.
The committee’s Republican members did not vote on AB 431, meaning that Democratic lawmakers mustered enough support on their own for the proposal to advance. Hearings scheduled for later this summer will debate the issue, but the major problems that have plagued ipoker for years – who to allow in on operating online poker sites and who to keep out – are still glaringly evident.
A tribal faction led by Pechanga continues to oppose the inclusion of PokerStars in any online poker scheme in the Golden State. PokerStars has partnered up with tribal groups headed by Morongo and the state’s largest cardrooms in an effort to be part of the action.
There is also discord among California tribes regarding the role of the horse racing industry in the state’s potential online poker regime. That issue also needs to be resolved before online poker players in California can log on and play in a regulated environment.
Clearly, compromise is needed in order for AB 431 or any other bill to advance further in the legislative process. That compromise remains a longshot similar to drawing to an inside straight. If the holdout tribes agree to make concessions, then discussions regarding online poker legislation can progress further.
Incidentally, AB 431 is a bare-bones proposal introduced to get the ball rolling. The particulars have yet to be worked out, which is also cause for concern. It will require considerably more discussion to agree on the details of ipoker legislation. And with history being on the side of disagreement among the parties involved, another drawn-out process is imminent.
Those looking for reasons to be optimistic about California online poker can certainly find it with regard to the first-ever movement of a bill in seven years of trying. But the champagne remains corked, as any celebration at this time would be premature.
Those seeking to look at the situation in a negative light can also do so – for the reasons mentioned above. There is still too much fighting and not enough playing nice among the gaming interests involved.
As the nation’s largest state in terms of population, California could have a tremendous effect on other states following suit should online poker be legalized. But don’t expect that to happen this year, as too many issues stand in the way before the 2015 legislative session comes to a close, meaning that the debate will likely drag on into 2016.