Uncertainty Remains Regarding California Online Poker Legalization in 2015

With the start of the New Year officially behind us, many online poker analysts are giving their spin on whether the game has a shot at being legalized in 2015. As we have learned over the last few years, there are few sure things in the political game when it comes to poker. Unfortunately, some of that uncertainty will continue regarding online poker legalization in 2015.

Reasons Why a Bill Will Pass in 2015

While online poker supporters will spout eternal optimism a new online poker bill is filed in California, 2015 has the potential to be “the year” a bill is finally pass. First, we have moved beyond the insanity that is the 2014 elections. Lawmakers can now focus on passing laws without worrying about how it will affect their chances for reelection, at least for a couple of years anyway.

Next, stakeholders have come to terms on several issues over the last year or so that were obstacles in the past. These include issues surrounding licensing, such fees and the number of licenses that sites will be allowed to have. Last year’s consensus between major tribes in the state was also a huge first step in what will surely be an eventual passage of a bill.

Lawmakers have a head start on a bill in 2015 with AB9 already in the pipeline. Assemblyman Mike Gatto is already working with stakeholders and appears, at least according to recent interviews, to be very flexible in his approach to the bill.

Reasons Why a Bill Will Not Pass in 2015

While there has been progress made in the last year towards passage, a couple of big issues still remain unresolved and could prove to be stumbling blocks for AB9. The big elephant in the room is still the bad actor clause. Both sides seem to be determined to stand their ground regarding the issue and unless some type of compromise is reached, this could stall the bill for years.

The other potential big issue that isn’t receiving much attention thanks to the bad actor clause is horse racetracks. This year’s bill again fails to acknowledge racetracks and the horse racing industry has outright warned lawmakers they will tie the matter up in the courts if they are not included. Realistically, if the bad actor clause is resolved, expect a quick compromise to be reached on this issue.

PokerStars Delay in Entering New Jersey Does Not Help Matters

When Amaya purchased PokerStars, everyone figured that New Jersey residents would be playing online poker at the site by the start of this year. Senator Lesniak keeps bumping back the date when we can expect PokerStars and now the newest timeframe is sometime in March. To say that this doesn’t help California is an understatement.

One can naturally assume that Tribes and state lawmakers are going to watch the PokerStars reentry closely to see what impact it has on New Jersey and how the company conducts business. The longer the company is delayed in launching, the greater the chances of a California delay become. A March/April launch of PokerStars would be ideal. It would give lawmakers time to check out the company’s New Jersey operations and try and sooth the concerns of Tribes.

Prediction – Too Soon to Call

Realistically, it is too early to give an honest opinion on the odds of AB9 or a similar bill passing in 2015. There are too many factors at stake that could change on a whim. What we will predict at this time is that chances will be good provided that movement is made on issues. If we go weeks or even months with little to no movement on major issues such as the bad actor, then you can expect another delay into 2016.

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