Momentum to get online poker legalized and regulated within the state of California has fallen by the wayside thanks to the legislative session ending Wednesday. Yet again, poker players have to wait until next year.
There was serious progress made in 2016, as California lawmakers figured out a way to appease the racing industry and the tribes on one front by giving the former a nearly $60 million annual subsidy in exchange for not being eligible for online poker licenses. That deal was hashed out early in the year. California’s tracks already offer online wagering, the only form of online betting currently legal in the state.
While that matter was settled, the final hurdle that never was cleared was how to craft “suitability” language for companies that facilitated online poker for Americans in the legal gray area between 2006 and 2011.
The company under fire is PokerStars, as most tribal groups, though to varying degrees, oppose the operator being involved with California. A couple of tribes partnered with PokerStars, so there was no consensus among the tribes on suitability. In August, Assemblymember Adam Gray, sponsor of the online poker bill, released new amendments that would put PokerStars in a so-called penalty box for a period of five years. However, PokerStars and its partners argued that the language could amount to a lifetime ban.
Shortly after the amendments were released, the Poker Players Alliance and the PokerStars coalition switched their stance to opposing the bill.
The path to ending the stalemate in 2017 is unclear if PokerStars remains in the mix. The state’s tribal gaming industry includes roughly 60 casinos and a market worth more than $7 billion. California is by far the nation’s largest tribal casino market.
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