Lawmakers in the state of California are very busy these days. Every week, a throng of bills are proposed by Assemblymen, House Representatives and Senators, pertaining to various matters of importance. This year, like many so many years before, the topic of online poker regulation has surfaced on dual platforms, and despite a strong desire for unity and passage in 2015, there’s just no way Californians can expect to be playing legal online poker this year.
The two bills in question are Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s AB 9, the Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2015, and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer’s AB 167, which goes by the exact same title. There are several key differences between these two bills, each garnering support from different factions of the state and industry, but one thing they both have in common is the lengthy timeline slated for regulation and licensing purposes.
For online poker players, AB 167 is probably the preferred online poker bill as it carries no bad actors clause, thus would leave room for PokerStars to enter the market. But players should also be aware that the time frame for an online poker launch under this measure would be as much as 635 days from enactment, liable to lead us into 2017 if not passed by early April.
Assembly Jones-Sawyer scripted an allotment of 270 days for regulations to be devised following enactment of the online poker bill, and another 365 after that for the licensing process.
Gatto’s AB 9 has a slightly less extensive schedule of 365 to 545 days. The online poker bill gives the state 180 days to author regulations once the bill is passed. All granted licenses are said to become simultaneously effective, occurring exactly one year (365 days) after the effective date of Chapter 19990.402 (pertaining to licensing).
If that chapter goes into effect before the regulatory deadline, the 180 days could fall into the same timeline as the 365 licensing process, shortening the overall duration.
Optimistically, though, it may not take a full 180 or 270 days for regulations to be put in place. In New Jersey, it took only nine months to get from point A—passage of an internet gaming bill—to point B—launch of the state’s first online poker sites. In Delaware, it the process lasted nearly twice as long, taking 16 months from passage to launch. Worst case scenario so far belongs to Nevada, where regulations, licensing and eventual launch of just one poker site took a staggering 22 months.
Considering California lawmakers will have three states with existing regulations to draw from, the actual timeline could possibly be reduced to just one year, but just how fast the course progresses—and that’s assuming either online poker bill gets the nod at all—is hard to predict.
In terms of volume, it’s not reasonable to compare California to the speed at which New Jersey got their market up and running. The Garden State started with 16 online poker and casino websites, whereas the Golden State is expected to have many more operators launching on opening day.
With so many uncertainties surrounding the online poker bills and their prospective launch dates, only one thing can be counted upon. Playing legal online poker on state-regulated websites in California will not be an option anytime in 2015.