Online Poker Not Likely to Pass in California in 2015

CA LegislatureWhat started as a year of optimism regarding online poker legalization in California has quickly become one of frustration as it appears that parties in the Golden State are nowhere close to forming a consensus. In fact, things could be so fractured that the state may not see the game legalized for the next five years.

In the last week, California has been under a microscope both at the second iGaming Legislative Symposium in Sacramento, CA and the American Poker Conference in Beverly Hills, CA. While many agree that California’s participation is vital for the American online poker market, it seems that parties cannot agree on how to accomplish this.

Too Many Rival Factions

One of the problems slowing down legislation is the number of factions involved in the process, each with their own agenda. The problem now is determining just how many are actually out there lobbying for their own vision of what a legalized online marketplace should be.

At one point, the number of factions appeared to be five, consisting of race tracks, the PokerStars Coalition, the Pechanga Coalition, the Rincon/Pala group and the remaining card rooms in the state. However, Assemblyman Mike Gatto stated at IGLS that there might be as many as 15 different factions looking to put their spin on online poker.

Regardless of number, these factions each have their own agenda when it comes to online poker and some type of compromise will be needed between most factions before any real movement can be made on the issues. Unfortunately, the only significant movement we have seen in 2015 is a change of opinion by the Rincon regarding bad actors. While this is a good first step, it is just one piece of a much bigger puzzle that doesn’t appear to be coming together anytime soon.

Five Year Plan?

The only thing that was clear after both conferences last week was that online poker doesn’t appear to be coming to California in 2015 unless a major change in philosophies occurs. Gatto, the sponsor of AB 9, changed his prediction from a 50/50 shot at passage this year to a 35% shot of passing by 2016. That’s a surprising shift considering he is sponsoring one of the three pieces of legislation being considered this year.

Amazingly, Gatto may be the most optimistic among those predicting California’s future. Chris Grove of Online Poker Report puts a prediction of online poker passing sometime in 2017 with the first regulated site launching either in late 2018 or 2019.

Dan Goldman, Executive VP of I-gaming at VCAT, dropped perhaps the biggest bombshell at the American Poker Conference. He believes that online poker will not be legalized until late 2019 and the first hands of poker will be dealt in 2020. This was met by a collective gasp by attendees.

These predictions have much more weight than your standard optimistic spin placed by lawmakers and other poker lobbyists. They take into considering the issues surrounding online poker legislation in California and set a realistic time frame, realizing that factions are not going to resolve issues overnight.

Online poker is clearly desired by most factions in California. The problem is coming to a consensus that will allow all parties to work in a spirit of cooperation. Unfortunately, when you have so many varying groups trying to achieve an end, it typically takes times to work out the details. As such, Californians will have to remain patient as this process slowly unfolds.

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