Sen. Roderick Wright reintroduced an online poker bill in the California State Senate Thursday, continuing his push for legislation despite past failures of the state’s gaming interests in finding common ground on the issue.
SB 51 is almost identical to SB 1463, with only minor non-substantial changes. SB 1463 was introduced in the last legislative session, but time ran out on the meetings at the end of August with the bill lacking support and agreement among the parties involved. As of yet, there are no hearings scheduled on SB 51 and with the upcoming holidays, the California legislature will not reconvene until Jan. 7, 2013.
“Unless there is an unexpected consensus among the stakeholders, the bill is likely to run its normal course with probable hearings in March or April, 2013,” said Harsh Parikh, a Snell & Wilmer gaming attorney who is monitoring the bill’s progress. Parikh added that its highly unlikely that the stakeholders will all be in agreement on SB 51, considering the infighting among tribes, horse-racing interests and card rooms that has plagued attempts to advance the measure in the past.
Efforts to pass the bill this go-round may be slightly more favorable since the dissolution of the California Online Poker Association (COPA) in October. That organization of roughly 60 tribes and card rooms was adamant about excluding horse-racing interests from the license application process. SB 51 does allow advance deposit wagering firms and racetracks to participate in the online poker regime.
Sen. Wright is the sole sponsor of SB 51, as his previous co-sponsor of SB 1463, Sen. Darrell Steinberg, has not attached his name to the new proposal. As the country’s most populous state, California is seen as absolutely crucial to the success of any interstate online gambling scheme that may be enacted sometime in the future. With a population of some 37 million, California may be the only state that would realize enough player liquidity to be successful without partnering with any other states.
Following the recent demise of the Reid-Kyl bill on the federal level, it is anticipated that individual states will ramp up efforts to pass online gambling legislation. The New Jersey Senate approved Internet gambling regulations Thursday and now await only Gov. Chris Christie’s signature to become law. Sen. Wright hopes his proposal will permit California to join Nevada and Delaware, and now possibly New Jersey, as states that have already approved regulations permitting online gambling within state borders.