Tribal gambling interests prove a stumbling block
Tuesday’s much anticipated Californian Legislature hearing on the legalization of online poker in the state made little progress, with proposer Sen. Rod Wright saying he was temporarily putting a hold on the bill whilst he considers concerns raised by opponents.
"This bill still needs a great deal of work," Wright said of his Bill SB 1485 during a meeting of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee, where the bill was scheduled to come up for a vote.
"For every issue, there were people who liked it and people who hated it."
Wright justifies the bill by saying that with a million Californian poker fans playing regularly, there is clearly a very strong demand and the juggernaut is hard to stop, therefore the state should regulate it to ensure high standards of safety….and tax it to bring money into the state’s coffers.
Independent analysts have estimated that up to $2.1 billion annually could be realised from legalization.
SB1485 would have authorised the state to contract with up to three gambling operators, including Indian tribes, to offer poker hubs over the Internet to state residents age 21 and older, reports Associated Press from the hearing. At least 10 percent of the monthly profits would have gone to the state, which faces a $19 billion deficit.
Numerous tribal groups, represented by the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, announced prior to the hearing that they were opposed the bill, saying it threatens their federal gambling compacts, endangering employment opportunities in local communities.
There were also concerns voiced by the Poker Players Association that the proposal would make it a misdemeanor to visit unauthorised gambling websites.
"Criminalising harmless recreational conduct that typically takes place in the privacy of one's home and cannot be practically enforced undermines public respect for all laws," the Alliance said in formally opposing to the bill.
Another opponent was the Morongo band of Mission Indians, who have previously made a bid in conjunction with Californian card rooms to acquire an exclusive licence to offer intrastate online poker, and appear unprepared to accept anything short of that at federal or state level.
Despite the challenges, Wright said that the bill was moving in the right direction, and he would continue to push for legalised online poker in California.
"The world isn't standing still while we figure out what to do," he cautioned. "The longer we wait, the more difficult it will become to get that business back to the state as different outlets of gambling become available and more entrenched."