California May Legalize Online Poker in 2015

Online poker may eventually be legalized in California, but probably not until next year, say supporters, citing looming national and state elections that could suppress support for the measure. California Gambling Control Commissioner Richard Schuetz (l.), however, says tribes are still concerned.

California May Legalize Online Poker in 2015

For the first time in four years, supporters of online poker in California are not predicting that the practice will be legalized in the upcoming year. Instead they are predicting that it will be legalized in 2015.

The reason for the delay in a push for online gambling in the Golden State is the upcoming national election in November, which tends to push most parochial concerns to the back burner.

Nelson Rose, a Whittier law professor who specializes in gaming law, told SFGate, “I don’t have any doubt we’ll have legal online poker in California. Only politics is preventing it.” “Politics” in this case means the fact that California’s largest Indian gaming tribes cannot agree on how they would like the law written.

Of course, the other two legal gaming groups in the state, card clubs and racetracks, have some say in it too, but not much compared to the tribes.

“The tribes have done a tremendous job of using the wealth generated from gaming to gain political power,” Rose added. In fact, gaming tribes are considered to be the most power single political force in the state behind the state’s public employees’ unions.

Although some gaming tribes who hope to profit from it are driving legalized online poker, other tribes who worry that it will cut into the revenue of their brick and mortar casinos are also opposing it.

According to California Gambling Control Commissioner Richard Schuetz, “I think there’s a belief among our tribal partners that the internet as a distribution network for gambling products could in some ways cannibalize the brick-and-mortar environment.”

Other industry observers think that online gaming might actually create more business for physical casinos.

Online gaming has already been legalized in Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey. The potential market for it in California, which has more than 38 million inhabitants, would dwarf those jurisdictions, however.

And that is the reason most observers think that online gaming is inevitable in California: the state desperately needs to develop new sources of revenue.