Moving a step closer to legalizing online poker in the Golden State, California lawmakers have introduced two new online poker bills. The bills were submitted on Friday, just before the deadline to submit for this session of the state legislature, and both seek to regulate online gambling by legalizing online poker and prohibiting other forms of gambling on the web in California – the country’s most populous state. Lawmakers there have identified poker as a game of skill and if their efforts to regulate are successful, Californians could see poker sites up and operational by January 1, 2015.
Bill SB 1366 was introduced by long-time pro-poker State Senator Lou Correa in the California Senate as an urgency bill and it supports prohibition of online gambling with an exception for online poker. Because this bill is an urgency bill, it would require a 2/3 majority to be ratified, but would take effect immediately. Correa is experienced in the area, as he was the representative of the previous bill SB 678, which was also known as the “Authorization and Regulation of Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2013.” Like its predecessor, this bill would also prevent any so-called “bad actors” from taking bets, but is limited to those who took bets from California residents.
Bill AB 2291 was introduced by Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer, also as an urgency bill, and it calls for the prohibition of gambling outside of online poker. The intent of this bill is set up a framework in order to authorize intrastate online poker and regulations would need to be implemented inside of 270 days of passage, once again with a 2-to-3 majority required to pass both houses and take effect. This bill represents the interests of at least eight different California tribes who would be issued licenses under the bill that would be active for ten years and would cost $5 million. The licenses are non-transferable and would not allow for other forms of online gambling, but would allow for poker, assuming quarterly licensing fees were paid. The bill also prevents California from entering in a compact with another state in order to share liquidity and, interestingly, forbids the state from opting-into any Federal internet gambling schemes.
Should the state ever decide to join Federal regulation, licensees would no longer be required to pay their fees and all their previous fees would be refunded.
Although both bills will likely see amendment as they move through the process, lawmakers seem confident that 2014 will be the year that California opens up online poker regulation.