California’s Poker Debate May Be Aided By Sports Betting Ruling

This is the first year in a decade that California is not pushing for any kind of online poker legislation. California has been trying to pass online poker legislation since 2007 and the legislation has always been met with delays and opposition. While the proponents of online poker bill have been persistent in pushing for the legislation year after year, they are finally taking a break in 2018 as the whole industry undergoes a “healing process” after last year’s aggressive push.

The opposition from the horse-racing industry and tribal gaming operators in 2017 reached its peak and online poker legislators were unable to get them to agree on the parameters of the bill. One of the biggest contentions came from the inability to solve the suitability language that targeted bad actors that still offered services to California players despite the federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.

The constant opposition appears to have worn down California’s online poker proponents. Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, who had been sponsoring the online poker bill in California since 2014 with Assembly Governmental Organization Committee chair Adam Gray said he will not be introducing any form of online poker bill this year. According to Jones-Sawyer, the next time they will be introducing the bill to the legislative floors, they will go back to their slow and methodical pace to get things done.

Jones-Sawyer believes that the key to passing online poker in California depending heavily on a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court in the case being pushed by New Jersey to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).

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If the ruling is made in favor of sports betting, Jones-Sawyer said they will have to start working on a legislation by 2019—but not before they get the opponents and proponents working together to comply with the federal ruling. And hopefully, they can tie online poker somewhere in the legislation for sports betting when they roll it out.

In a statement, Reggie Jones-Sawyer said

Online poker is active because the Supreme Court ruling will make it more viable. That’s what is happening now. We will get there, we just may go through a different door than the traditional one. Sports wagering raises all tides.

Like many states, Assemblyman Gray is already poised to launch his campaign for sports betting once the Supreme Court rules in favor of New Jersey. He has introduced ACA 18, a bill that proposes to amend the constitution of California and legalize sports betting if a change in federal law occurs. Jones-Sawyer said they have yet to settle whether Gray’s bill goes first or if they will do a joint bill once sports betting is a go.