One of the most contentious legislative proposals California lawmakers will debate in 2012 is the whether or not to legalize online poker and other forms of gambling in an effort to bring more revenue into the state.
President Pro Temp of the Senate, Darrell Steinberg stated that while he is not a huge fan of the idea, he is open to the idea if it really has the potential to bring in millions of dollars that can be used for education and health care.
This is good news for fans of online poker as he had previously put 2 competing bills on hold, which means the Senate was not allowed to consider the bills.
The first bill, SB40, sponsored by Sen. Lou Correa, D-Anaheim would let all Indian Tribes and state licensed card rooms operate their own Online Poker site. All other forms of online gambling would be banned, except for the pari-mutuel horse racing wagers. His bill, of course, has the backing of many Indian tribes and established card rooms. Senator Correa states that his bill would bring an immediate $250 million into the state from the upfront payments required of potential online poker operators. Tim Gage, former state finance director, stated that the bill would create about 1300 jobs and 41.4 billion in new revenue over 10 years.
A competing bill from Senator Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, would allow poker and other forms of online gambling. SB45 would authorize 3 operators who would then be required to give 10% of gross revenue to the state. While early projections of SB45 indicated that it could bring in between $2.4 and $6.1 billion over eight years, earlier versions of the bill were opposed by some Indian tribes and established card rooms.
Senator Wright is the chairman of the Governmental Organization Committee, which plans to hold hearings in January of 2012 with hopes of advancing one of the bills.
Supporters of the idea of legalizing online poker in California estimate that about 1.5 million Californians play poker online every week, thus making it the nations largest online poker market. Some want the Legislature to act quickly, because they fear Congress could weigh in and restrict the individual state’s ability to make laws regarding online gaming.
Some people like Assembly Speaker John Perez are not yet convinced that online gambling is the key to California’s budget problems, but he said his chamber will wait and see how the legislation progresses in the Senate.