State Senator Lou Correa has been working diligently to push for a regulated online poker market in California for the last four years. In February of 2014, he proposed yet another revised version of his internet poker bill. With the end of the legislative session approaching, however, he’s finally decided to abandon hope for passage in 2014. Correa placed his latest measure on the shelf yesterday, stating that time would never allow for the necessary refinements to get online poker regulated before the year is out.
The Democratic Senator from Santa Ana, California presides over the 34th District and is the Chairman of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee. That committee is responsible for many things; among them, the appraisal of all propositions related to gambling in the state. Despite Sen. Correa’s leading role on that panel, editing a version of the internet poker proposition refined enough to move forward has been a difficult process, indeed.
Sen. Correa’s very first attempt to bring online poker to the citizens of the Golden State occurred in December of 2010 with the introduction of an amended SB 40, designed to “establish a framework to authorize intrastate Internet poker” in California. While that bill gained the support of poke lobbyist, it failed to get much further.
Correa’s determination was taken up again with each passing year, but in-fighting between members of the gambling industry have put a halt to his efforts at every turn. Tribal casinos, commercial card rooms and pari-mutuel betting facilities have yet to agree on how the industry should be operated, all desiring some type of advantage, thus leaving lawmakers with little choice but to postpone the issue until a cohesive arrangement can be reached.
The Senator’s most recent attempt – the bill he shelved yesterday – was titled SB 1366, The Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2014. Introduced in February of this year, the new online poker bill was authored to present more detailed security measures to prevent things like underage gambling and out-of-state access, as well as intricately defining the eligibility of iGaming license applicants. One of the most widely debated topics was the fact that horse racing tracks were excluded from participating. A ‘bad actors’ clause, which would prohibit any international poker brand that accepted play from California residents after December 31, 2006 from obtaining a license, was also a dominant issue.
When Sen. Lou Correa officially shelved SB 1366, he offered the following comments. “Internet poker is an important public policy. We need to make sure it’s done right.” But while Correa was acquiescent in delaying the regulation of internet poker in California for another year to ensure its rectitude, the possibility of legalization in 2014 is not entirely lost.
Correa’s bill was not the only online poker measure circulating throughout the Golden State this year. Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer proposed a similar piece of legislation, also in February of this year. It is so similar, in fact, that his internet poker bill, AB 2291, carries the exact same title. There are a few notable differences between the two, as foreshadowed by Jones-Sawyer’s bill containing approximately 25% more text. Most notably, AB 2291 seeks a singularly intrastate market and allows California to opt out of interstate networking if/when a federal online poker bill is enacted, whereas SB 1366 supports the eventual adoption of shared liquidity with other states.
Assemb. Jones-Sawyer’s online poker bill is in the same position at Sen. Correa’s, aside from the recent shelving of the latter. It has not been approved by the committee, nor is there a date set for a hearing to debate the conditions of the online poker bill. With very little time remaining, it is incredibly likely that AB 2291 will takes its place next to SB 1366 on the legislative shelf until 2015. Unfortunately, Jones-Sawyer has been unreachable for comment on the matter.
UPDATE: August 8, 2014 – Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer has followed Senator Lou Correa’s lead, shelving his California online poker bill for the remainder of the 2014 legislative session.